Hypertension is the most important risk factor in CHD, stroke and heart failure. Hypertension is one of the most common chronic degenerative diseases in general practice.
In Australia 14% of the adult population had hypertension in 1995. 36
In UK about 20% of population have blood pressure 160/95 and higher. 45
I deal with hypertensive patients every day and the problem is that when the patient is commenced on medication it is usually for life. The majority of patients do not like that. They want to get a quick fix and get off the medication as soon as the blood pressure is back to normal.
What types of hypertension are there?
1. Primary hypertension or essential, which accounts for 95% of cases of hypertension. This in fact means that medical science does not know the cause of it. It is usually blamed on risk factors such as smoking, family history, bad life style, obesity, high lipids, stress, diabetes and so on.
2. Secondary hypertension which has underlying cause such as renal disease (chronic glomerulonephritis, polycystic kidneys), endocrine disorders like Cushing’s syndrome, acromegaly, phaeochromocytoma), connective tissue diseases, eclampsia and the contraceptive pill.
What is the cause from nutritional point of view?
I believe oxidative stress due to overwhelming free radical production is one of the main causes of high blood pressure.
Oxidative stress damages the inner lining of the arterial wall (intima) which causes inflammation. This in turn triggers precipitation of cholesterol, calcium, waste material and debris on to arterial lumen. These plaques are called atheroma and can often be dislodged and cause sudden heart attack. Oxidised LDL-cholesterol also irritates and injures the intima. These two processes combined with further free radical damage are the basis for hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis. The injured inner arterial lining seems to cause less Nitric Oxide production.
Nitric Oxide is a wonderful molecule, which helps relaxation of the arteries. Nitric oxide opens up the arteries and hence increases the blood flow. Nitric Oxide has a protective effect against rupturing plaques (atheroma) in the arteries thus preventing sudden death from sudden heart attack. Because of these capabilities, nitric oxide was chosen as molecule of the year in 1992. So go and get as much nitric oxide as you can as it protects you against CHD. Nitric oxide is mostly made from L-Arginine in the body. L-Arginine is an essential amino acid, which is part of protein structure.
L-Arginine is found in nuts such as almonds, walnuts and peanuts. L-Arginine is also found in legumes, green beans, alfalfa, garlic, lentils and snow peas. There have been several studies to indicate that Seventh-Day Adventists, due to a high intake of nuts (five nut-based meals per week), have 50% less incidence of heart disease. 9
An Iowa women's health study, which was based on five nut-based meals per week, also confirmed that these women had 50% less incidence of heart attack.9
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