Hypertension, or raised blood pressure, has been termed the "silent killer" and with good reason. It gives almost no sign of its presence and is usually only detected by routine medical checkups. But the consequences of high blood pressure are more important than the fact that it exists. The long term consequences include strokes, heart attacks, kidney failure and respitory problems. Often accompanied by arteriosclerosis (hardened arteries) hypertension makes a high contribution toward serious cardiovascular disease, heart trouble and premature death.
And statistics reveal that in the Western World, 15 to 20 per cent of adults have raised blood pressure. About a third of these are not aware of their condition until the pressure has reached dangerous levels. Indications also support the view that around 40 per cent of all deaths in the Western World are due to circulatory disorders.
Seventy years ago, hypertension was relatively uncommon. Today it's a way of life for so many; a way of life that carries a dependency on drug medication, regular medical checkups and repeat visits to the doctor for prescriptions. What happened then? What could have caused this increase in such a relatively short time?
Clearly, the villain of the piece is the modern lifestyle which includes the Western Diet. It can be demonstrated that a diet of rich foods, too much fat, sugar and salt are important contributors to raised blood pressure and obesity. And, needless to say, both are two basic conditions which underlie many forms of cardiovascular disease. And it should be noted that hypertension is often a contributor to kidney trouble.
And, aAs far as medical treatment is concerned, there is no cure for hypertension, only relief through treatment with hypertensive drugs. The drugs do work. They bring down high blood pressure to acceptable levels, but usually with undesirable side effects such as tiredness and extreme lack of energy which in some cases can be serious leading the sufferers to seek vitamin supplements or even other medication to overcome the side effects when the only treatment that is satisfactory is to discontinue using the drugs that
caused it. They face a dilemma: which is the worse, the disease or the cure? They are afraid to spurn the drugs their doctor prescribed, yet they wish to avoid the unpleasant side effects. What should they do?
Working for many years as a heart surgeon, I became aware that so many of the people who came under the knife in my operating theatres, were there purely through lifestyle induced disease. The toxic Western Diet of deadly fats, high cholesterol, salt and sugar, with its attendant sedentary way of life had destroyed their health. They were mostly obese, had aged before their time, many had become diabetic, had developed arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure, damaged kidneys and a host of other cardiovascular
problems. Many had consequently suffered strokes heart attacks. Surgery, of course, saved many lives, but on leaving the hospital most reverted back to the ways that had destroyed them and used pharmaceutical drugs to counter the effects. This disturbed me greatly.
Eventually I retired from active surgery, and turned away from orthodox medicine. I decided to offer help to those who sought to improve their health, lead more healthy lifestyles, enjoy an active life and live out their full life envelope. En route to developing the skills of a naturopath, I studied health and preventative medicine and discovered that healthy blood pressure and its maintenance is the key, the solution. And that solution is to stop treatment based on artificial methods of suppression of high blood pressure, but to
reduce hypertension by removing the cause. When we remove the cause the patient's natural recuperative powers will restore health and the drugs become redundant.
Another factor to consider is, of course, obesity. Excess body weight and hypertension go hand in hand. In the treatment of high blood pressure, reduction of body weight and fat to normal levels take priority. Excess weight is a major health problem in Western developed nations and has been for some time. And the problem is growing in the developing world as their populations emulate the West and its habits, encouraging the expansion of the American fast food franchises.
We must not, of course, forget genetic factors. A person's genes can often determine how prone he or she may be to develop hypertension. Yet it is not impossible to reduce genetic influences in this regard. For example, in studies of native peoples such as the peoples of New Guinea and the aboriginals of Australia. In their natural environment, before serious western contact, they had very healthy low blood pressure and almost no circulatory disease. But when introduced to the white man's diet of processed and refined foods with fat, high salt and sugar concentrations, their blood pressure rose accordingly with the attendant circulatory disorders. This clearly indicates that diet is the major cause of high blood pressure and its related diseases.
A diet high in fats, sugar, salt and refined carbohydrates will increase the production of cholesterol which clogs and builds up in the arteries reducing their diameter and alters the electrolyte balance causing the muscular walls of the arteries to contract creating mineral deficiencies, particularly magnesium deficiency. This kills the muscle cells which are then followed by coronary thrombosis or myocardial infarction. Hypertension can not only be prevented by a sensible diet, but also dietary support during treatment can have a critical influence on recovery.
I must now stress that all the indications are clear; diet and genetic factors are the major players in high blood pressure, obesity and the deadly growing incidence of Type 2 Diabetes. We cannot do anything about our genes, but we can do a great deal about our diets. We can change and adjust our diets and lifestyles to defeat this disorder and live richer, fuller and longer lives.
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James A. Ridgeway