Forty-six percent of adults and nearly 80 percent of people 65 and older have high blood pressure—or hypertension—according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.1Facts About Hypertension. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention. Last reviewed: July 6, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/facts.htmHigh blood pressure, which often occurs without symptoms, increases the risk of stroke and heart disease. The costs of high blood pressure are manifold: Patients pay an estimated $2,000 more in annual healthcare expenses. Although blood pressure medications represent some of the greatest advances in pharmacology, they are not without side effects, risks, and consequences, especially with long-term use. Whole-body health evaluation and care are vital in identifying the underlying causes of high blood pressure, proactively addressing changes that affect overall health, and minimizing reliance on prescription medications when possible.
Licensed naturopathic doctors (NDs) are trained to evaluate and treat the whole person. They help patients identify the well-known causes and modifiable risk factors of high blood pressure, as well as less-examined factors, including nutritional and mineral deficiencies and inflammation.
What Do Blood Pressure Numbers Really Mean?
Your blood pressure measurement consists of two numbers that reflect the different pressures in your blood vessels:
- systolic, the pressure in your vessels when your heart contracts, and
- diastolic, the pressure when your heart is at rest between beats.
Numbers exceeding the ideal range indicate that your heart is working harder than normal to pump blood to the rest of your body. Over time, untreated high blood pressure damages the delicate tissues inside blood vessels, eyes, brain, heart, and other areas. This can lead to clogged arteries (atherosclerosis), blindness, and stroke. High blood pressure can also cause kidney failure, which may require dialysis.
What Causes High Blood Pressure?
The causes of high blood pressure, often called “risk factors,” differ from person to person. Well-known modifiable risk factors include being overweight or obese, having a sedentary lifestyle, using tobacco, having an unhealthy diet (high in sodium), excessive alcohol use (more than one drink per day for women, two drinks per day for men), stress, sleep apnea, and diabetes. Non-modifiable risk factors include age, race, and family history. Certain medications, hormonal imbalances, and kidney disease can also contribute to high blood pressure.
Natural Approaches to Lowering Blood Pressure
Naturopathic doctors identify and address the genetic, environmental, behavioral, and lifestyle factors that raise blood pressure.
NDs offer a broad spectrum of treatments, including clinical nutrition, exercise, botanical medicine, behavioral medicine, and at times, standard medications. Naturopathic doctors work with and refer patients to other physicians and specialists when necessary.
A large body of evidence supports specific diets in the treatment of high blood pressure. NDs are well-equipped to coach people on diet and nutrition.
Naturopathic doctors provide highly individualized therapies. They follow the therapeutic order, leading with minimally invasive therapies that support the body to restore healthy function. Meeting patients where they are, NDs might recommend dietary approaches, vitamin supplements, exercise training, stress management, and even prescription medications. Health-promoting, natural strategies that support the body’s effort to repair itself are fundamental in the naturopathic approach.
How to Measure Blood Pressure at Home
- Measure twice daily: once in the morning and once in the afternoon/evening, 30 minutes before eating, drinking, or exercising.
- Find a time when you can rest for several minutes.
- Use a cuff that automatically inflates and deflates.
- Sit comfortably, keeping your arms at heart level. Take the measurement two to three times, between 1 and 2 minutes apart.
- Write the numbers down. Try to measure your blood pressure when you are relaxed, but make a note of any stressful situations that may affect the reading. Take your recorded measurements to your doctor.
- 1Facts About Hypertension. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention. Last reviewed: July 6, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/facts.htm