Perhaps the best way to look at blood pressure and the plaque in the arteries (atherosclerosis) is through water hydraulics or, even better, the water hose in your garden. The three main components of our vascular system we are concerned with are the pump (heart), pipes (arteries) and feedback valve (kidneys).
In your garden, there are a few major reasons why the pressure in your water pump increases - there is not enough water in the pump and pipes or, related to this, the water is too thick. Or the pipes are blocked or too rigid.
In your arteries, if you have not consumed enough good clean alkaline mineralised water you literally do not have enough liquid in your heart, arteries and veins to get around the body. It becomes thicker and is too viscous and takes a lot more pressure to get around the body. At the other end of the body, the kidneys need to maintain a certain pressure to be able to filter everything through them, so they work to regulate the pressure. If the pressure is too low at the kidneys, other problems occur so the kidneys send a message to your heart to increase the pressure, even though this puts added pressure on the heart.
In addition, the brain is a unique organ in that it cannot produce its own antioxidants unlike other tissues in the body, and when the nutrients, including antioxidants, oxygen and glucose, it requires get low, it literally shuts down the function so that no damage occurs. As a result, the brain also requires a constant flow of blood and if anything slows the flow of blood and nutrients it sends messages to increase the blood pressure.
So high blood pressure, while it increases your risk of heart attack, is an essential function of the body to keep functioning as well as it can - not just your body gone wrong. Better to fix the things causing the high blood pressure than to just try to lower it.
Drink More Water
Blood that's too thick also slows the transport of essential nutrients, including oxygen, throughout your body. To help overcome this, drink more water (purified and re-mineralised). It is no coincidence that studies of tea drinkers around the world show those who consume more cups have lower levels of heart attack and stroke. It is not just antioxidants in the tea but also the large volume of liquids they drink.
Secondly, if the pipes in the garden are damaged in some way through oxidative damage from the sun, or if leaks or blockages occur, the pump has to increase pressure. In the case of our circulatory system, when damage to the arteries occurs, a plaque (atherosclerosis) forms as a nice soft flexible bandaid, along with the cholesterol and other ingredients, but it is the calcium that moves out of the blood to form a hardened plaque. Unless the damage is halted and reversed, damaged areas begin to thicken and harden (from the calcium), forming an atherosclerotic plaque and building up pressure.
Unlike the pipes in the garden, our arteries are flexible tubes surrounded by a layer of muscle. When the heart pumps the blood, the arteries expand to take the extra liquid and contract to help push the liquid along the arteries. If the muscles surrounding the arteries are rigid and cannot relax and function properly, the arteries can't expand and push the blood away from the heart, so the heart again has to pump harder and pressure builds.
The major reason for the arteries not relaxing is the damage done to a thin layer on the inside of your blood vessels called the endothelium. This single, very fragile one cell layer sends messages by a chemical called nitric oxide (NO) to relax the arteries. If this layer, the endothelium, is damaged or doesn't have the ingredients to produce NO, the arteries cannot relax. In healthy people, the cells of blood vessels release NO, which instructs smooth muscles surrounding arteries to relax. In this manner, blood vessels can release their constriction by themselves and lower blood pressure. With increasing arterial damage from plaque, high blood pressure, acidosis, oxidation and inflammation, the ability to produce NO declines. Simple. Many of the blood pressure drugs on the market, including Viagra, work on the same NO principle but nutrition does it better and much, much more safely.
More than 97% of high blood pressure is therefore caused bynot enough water in the pipes so the blood becomes too viscous, damage to the arteries caused by poor nutrition and lifestyle, andthe muscles around the arteries and arteries not being able to relax because of poor nutrition and lifestyle.
To reverse high blood pressure, all it takes is the nutrients required to repair and maintain healthy, flexible arteries and enough liquid by drinking adequate quantities of good clean water. At least this is what the research shows.
Importance of Nutrition and Lifestyle
Studies have shown blood pressure lowered by 10 or 20 points in a few weeks or less of supplementing with just one nutritional ingredient or dietary and lifestyle changes without any medication. In support of this I have met hundreds of people who have lowered their blood pressure within a few days to weeks by changes in nutrition and lifestyle including drinking more water. Most telling though, I recently met a nutritional doctor friend of mine who had a patient come to her on five different drugs to lower blood pressure. Not only were the drugs not working but the patient was also having serious side effects common to these drugs. My friend put her on a very simple nutritional regime and was able to get her off all the drugs and lower her blood pressure within two weeks.
Nutrition and lifestyle factors are the main causes of hypertension and atherosclerosis; it makes sense, therefore, that changes in these must surely reverse the condition. Another person, "EM," had a blood pressure reading of 153 and was on two different medications but was having side effects. She adopted my blood pressure smoothie (see later) and over three weeks dropped to 123 mm Hg. Her energy levels were up and she felt much better than she had in years.
Unfortunately, despite the effectiveness of diet and lifestyle changes, the health system most often resorts to medication and puts the fear of God into you if you don't take the drugs. While many antihypertensive drugs have proven results in decreasing blood pressure, they are not addressing the problem and the fact that they have serious, even deadly, side effects including heart attack, Alzheimer's and weight gain, which then lead to many other complications.
Beta Blocker Risks
Furthermore, patients treated for high blood pressure with drugs still have a higher risk of heart attack and stroke compared to the average population unless these patients change their diet and lifestyle. Just one example, and I have a book full of them, shows that beta blockers, one of the first choice medicines for hypertension, while undoubtedly effective at lowering blood pressure, actually increase cardiovascular mortality in doing so. So they stop one problem to create another. A meta analysis of 22 randomised controlled trials evaluating 34,096 patients taking beta blockers against 30,139 patients taking other antihypertensive agents and 3,987 patients receiving placebos found that the use of beta blockers to lower heart rate in hypertensive individuals increased the risk of cardiovascular events and death for patients (Bangalore et al. 2008, J Am Coll Cardiol. 2008; 52(18):1482-1489).
The latest research on aspirin also shows the benefits have been exaggerated and the side effects kept quiet to the point where many researchers are now saying there is no benefit of taking aspirin and, in fact, there may be harm. By contrast, Pycnogenol, an extract from grapes, has shown it inhibits platelet aggregation as easily and effectively as would a five-times-larger dose of aspirin (Colman et al. 1999), as have many other nutrients.
Put simply what does work is increased levels of fruit, nuts, vegetables, beans, supplementation, sunlight and physical activity, plus less stress and avoiding toxins. Apart from these, the best approach for those seriously wanting to reduce their blood pressure is Dr Dingle's Blood Pressure Smoothie. The reason I call it the blood pressure smoothie is all of the ingredients have been shown in multiple scientific studies to reduce blood pressure. By no way is this meant to replace advice from your GP but you can share it with them and see if they are interested in preventing the problem rather than just treating it with pharmaceuticals. Remember also that I am not a GP; I am just the guy who does all the research, which is why I have a PhD.
Blood Pressure Smoothie
4 ingredients in order of importanceBeetrootAlmonds (soaked for at least 8 hours)Linseed (flaxseed)Filtered re-mineralised ionised water.
Extras for taste and mineralsBananaCoconutDates
You will remember earlier how (nitric oxide) NO relaxes the muscles surrounding the arteries and many of the beneficial actions of nutrition on lowering blood pressure result both directly and indirectly through improving endothelial tissue and NO production and release from this tissue. Two major pathways to increase NO are increase the rates of nitrates in the diet, the building block for NO, and L-Arginine which stimulates the enzyme to manufacture NO. A third mechanism that is absolutely critical is to protect and repair the endothelium - remember it is only one cell thick and very susceptible to damage. Vitamin C and antioxidants are essential for this part.
High Nitrate Foods
Foods high in dietary nitrate such as beetroot are associated with reduced blood pressure, increased exercise performance as a result of vasodilation (expansion) of the blood vessels and a decreased incidence in cardiovascular disease. 100-200mg of beetroot per day has been shown to produce immediate effects of lowering blood pressure by around 15 mm of Hg. High levels of nitrate can be found in spinach, fennel, radishes, parsley, aubergine (eggplant), squash, broccoli, cabbage and kale, chard, cucumber, fennel, garlic and onions, kohlrabi, pumpkin, radishes (especially black radish), beans, celery and rhubarb, with the highest level - over 3,500 mg/kg - found in lettuce, especially iceberg, cos, and arugula (rocket).
Almonds have one of the highest sources of L-Arginine (most nuts have lots of L-Arginine so you can substitute the almonds if you want), which stimulates NO synthesis. Studies of almonds have shown reductions of 5-6 mm of blood pressure. It is important to soak the almonds as they (all nuts and seeds) have enzyme-inhibiting factors in them, which stop them from germinating until they have enough water. Flaxseed is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, L Arginine (about 20% less than almonds), lignans, antioxidants and fibre that together probably provide benefits to patients with cardiovascular disease. Studies on consuming 30g of flaxseed have been shown to reduce blood pressure by up to 15 mm Hg.
The great thing about this smoothie is that you can add just about anything else you want to it and it will make it even tastier and better for you. If you want to make up your own, just add a bit more "oomph" or a new taste sensation, try these below.
Hundreds of studies have shown many other food ingredients to lower blood pressure, including green tea which has been shown to reduce blood pressure by 4-5 mm. Flavanols found in cocoa have been shown to increase the formation of endothelial nitric oxide. The Greeks, Egyptians and Romans effectively used garlic to treat a host of ailments including infections, digestive problems, and high blood pressure. In a study of 210 patients with hypertension, supplementing with garlic showed a significant decrease in blood pressure in both dose and duration-dependent manner. In fact, the garlic treated group outperformed the drug Atenolol (a selective β1 receptor antagonist and one of the most widely used beta blockers to lower blood pressure) and the placebo. But don't tell your GP this - they won't believe it.
Without any doubt, supplementing with L Arginine, an amino acid, can have dramatic and rapid results in lowering blood pressure. It is often many times better than any combination of drugs and it is available in many health food stores. Although you can get L Arginine in almonds and other nuts, you get a lot more and faster benefits by supplementing. One person I know had a drop of more than 25 mmHg in a few days from just using L Arginine. Then when they added the smoothie, their doctor took them off their blood pressure medication.
In a meta analysis of 29 randomised, controlled, clinical trials investigating vitamin C intake they found that taking an average of 500 milligrams of vitamin C daily reduced blood pressure by around 4 mmHg. Among those diagnosed with hypertension, the drop was nearly 5 mm and more vitamin C led to even lower levels of blood pressure. I have more than 5g of vitamin C each day. Quercetin supplementation also reduces blood pressure by around 7 mmHg. Lycopene, which is the red you get in tomatoes, reduces blood pressure by around 5 mm. Further analysis showed that supplementing with higher dosage of lycopene supplement (>12 mg/day) could lower blood pressure more significantly, especially for participants with higher blood pressure. Coenzyme Q10 lowers blood pressure and is particularly effective in reducing hypertension in diabetics in that it not only lowers blood pressure but also improves diabetic control. Supplementation with a marine pine bark extract for eight weeks statistically significantly lowered systolic blood pressure. Almost 60% of the patients who supplemented with a marine pine bark extract were able to cut their prescribed medication dosage by half to keep their blood pressure in a healthy range. Among the minerals implicated in heart health via lowering blood pressure or improvements in vascular health are magnesium, potassium and selenium. A number of studies have also shown that probiotics contribute to lower blood pressure.
It is very clear that by adopting my blood pressure smoothie and having lots of the nutrients I have mentioned throughout the day, you can have a real impact on lowering blood pressure without drugs. Many of the studies on foods have shown that not only are they able to outperform the drugs and have no negative side effects, but they are so good for you they help in many areas of health, including lowering your risk of some cancers and other forms of disease.
In the words of Hippocrates, the father of medicine, some 2000 years ago: "Let food be thy medicine".
And, in my words, "You can supplement too to get an even better result".
DISCLAIMER: Dr Peter Dingle is a researcher, educator and public health advocate. He has a PhD in the field of environmental toxicology and is not a medical doctor.
Dr Peter Dingle (PhD) has spent the past 30 years as a researcher, educator, author and advocate for a common sense approach to health and wellbeing. He has a PhD in the field of environmental toxicology and is not a medical doctor. He is Australia’s leading motivational health speaker and has 14 books in publication.