Can I reverse HTN and stop taking medication? - Blog # 55
Hello Everyone! Welcome back to another Friday blog! It’s a brand new year. Did you make a New Year’s resolution? Many of us do…most of us don’t follow through. Did you know nearly half (47%) of Americans have HTN (hypertension or high blood pressure)? This is likely a low estimate. It is a primary driver of disease and death here in the U.S. New statistics reveal just how prevalent this problem is:
- Having hypertension puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke, which are leading causes of death in the United States.
- Nearly half of adults in the United States (47%, or 116 million) have hypertension, defined as a systolic blood pressure greater than 130 mmHg or a diastolic blood pressure greater than 80 mmHg or are taking medication for hypertension.
- Only about 1 in 4 adults (24%) with hypertension have their condition under control.
- About half of adults (45%) with uncontrolled hypertension have a blood pressure of 140/90 mmHg or higher. This includes 37 million U.S. adults.
- About 34 million adults who are recommended to take medication may need it to be prescribed and to start taking it. Almost two out of three of this group (19 million) have a blood pressure of 140/90 mmHg or higher.
- High blood pressure was a primary or contributing cause of death for 516,955 people in the United States in 2019.
- High blood pressure costs the United States about $131 billion each year, averaged over 12 years from 2003 to 2014.
HTN has long been termed the “silent killer” because of the asymptomatic nature of this problem. So, many of us don’t even know we have it!! MD recommendations are typically to just take medication. These medications have side effects. Life-altering side-effects!! Debilitating light-headedness is just one. These drugs don’t work that well either. Many times you need more than one HTN medication to lower your blood pressure. Many times, other drugs are added to address the side-effects…It is a vicious cycle. To make matters worse, they often prescribe a statin drug to lower cholesterol! This is a horrible strategy! Statin drugs destroy muscle tissue…and guess what?…your heart is made of muscle and your blood vessels are lined with smooth muscle. What could possibly go wrong? Also, these drugs were designed by the drug companies for you to be dependent on for the rest of your life. The number one prescribed drug in the US is a statin drug, grossing roughly $2 billion. You think $$ is not involved here? They never want you to stop taking it. Let’s look closer at cholesterol.
Cholesterol is required to make every new cell, every new mitochondria (battery of cell), all your hormones, make bile and aid in the absorption of nutrients and many, many other things in the body. Cholesterol = life. Newest research shows that nearly ALL of the cholesterol in your blood is endogenous. That is, made by your own body. The real problem lies in inflammation. When we eat a high starch/high carbohydrate diet, many inflammatory molecules are produced. This affects the lining of our blood vessels making them a bit sticky. So, whatever is in the blood, whether it is cholesterol or calcium can stick and create a plaque. Targeting cholesterol is like blaming the rain for flooding, when the real issue is the debris blocking the drain pipe. You remove the debris, water flows where it is supposed to go and the problem is solved. You still need the rain…otherwise everything would die.
In 2018 published in the journal Nutrients they stated: “Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the United States. For years, dietary cholesterol was implicated in increasing blood cholesterol levels leading to the elevated risk of CVD. To date, extensive research did not show evidence to support a role of dietary cholesterol in the development of CVD.” In fact, they have actually changed their guidelines of restricting dietary cholesterol to 300 mg/day!! Were YOU notified of this change??????? This should have been front page news!
The latest research shows that the primary drivers for HTN are insulin resistance or MetS (metabolic syndrome) and sleep apnea. WOW! So, what is insulin resistance? To simplify, we eat food which causes a spike in our blood sugar. Our pancreas responds by making insulin to deal with the glucose in our blood. When we eat a high carbohydrate meal, we get a huge spike with high insulin response to get the fuel into the cells, usually followed by a low. This roller coaster is dangerous and causes inflammation. When we eat often by snacking between meals, this happens over and over. Over many years of this abuse, our cells become overwhelmed, resistant, and begin to ignore the signals from insulin…sort of like blocking out white noise. It’s there constantly and we get immune to it. The pancreas over time can fatigue and begin to produce less insulin. If this goes on long enough, we become type 2 diabetic. Check out blog # 48
“Insulin has a fundamental role in T2D and obesity. Elevated insulin concentrations are associated with the development of metabolic syndrome [expanded waist size, hypertension, elevated triglycerides and lower high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol; refs., cardiovascular, and overall mortality. Insulin resistance (IR) has also been specifically associated with cancer incidence and outcomes.”
A review article published in 2020: “Insulin resistance plays a key role also in the pathogenesis and progression of hypertension-induced target organ damage, like left ventricular hypertrophy, atherosclerosis and chronic kidney disease. Altogether these abnormalities significantly contribute to the increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.” So, this affects our cardiovascular system, blood pressure, multiple organ systems, and even kidney damage and disease. To make matters worse, MetS has nearly doubled from 50 million to 93 million people here in the U.S. from 1990-2018. WHAT???!!!!! Furthermore, these numbers only represent the people that got diagnosed!!! It is estimated that the problem is actually MUCH worse.
Because of our high carbohydrate western diet, frequent eating, snacking, sugary drinks and sedentary lifestyle, in excess of 80% of individuals have some level of insulin resistance. Holy moly. “MetS is associated with severe COVID-19. Nearly half of COVID-19 patients had a comorbidity such as hypertension and diabetes. Obesity confers a 2.4-fold higher odds of developing severe pneumonia in COVID-19. The high prevalence of MetS in the US and its increasing trend are worrying, since it may suggest that a substantial proportion of the US population is at risk of COVID-19 and its complications.” So, insulin resistance makes us fatter and less able to recover from illness.
Okay, what about sleep apnea? “Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes numerous lapses in breathing during sleep. There are two types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA). OSA is marked by episodes of airway collapse, which blocks airflow into the lungs and often causes snoring and gasping during sleep. In CSA, breathing lapses occur because of a lack of communication between the brain and the muscles involved in breathing.” Symptoms include:
- Loud snoring
- Gasping for air during sleep
- Awakening with a dry mouth
- Morning headache
- Hypersomnolence, or excessive daytime sleepiness
- Difficulty concentrating
Did you know it is significantly under-diagnosed? We all know the connection between snoring and sleep apnea. But, we don’t always make the connection of chronic low-level oxygen to the brain during sleep. Think about it for a second. When you have chronic low-oxygen to brain cells, they become quite stressed out and some even die. This stress response is the trigger to…yes…you guessed it…inflammation. When deprived of oxygen, tissue becomes ischemic and oxidative stress rises out of control. Many inflammatory molecules are released in response to this stress. These molecules damage surrounding tissue as well as the lining of the blood vessels, making them sticky in places and more hardened and less pliable = HTN.
Okay! So, what can we do about HTN? Did you know that your body has its own innate healing system? It is way more powerful than any drug. Your body has the ability to make chemicals and molecules that absolutely can heal the body - without side-effects! Implementing strategies to make your body more insulin-sensitive, reduce stress and inflammation, improve sleep quality and learning how to stimulate autophagy (body’s clean-up and recycling system) is definitely the way to go. Let’s talk about some strategies.
- Take a good multivitamin - give your body the tools to repair
- Eliminate processed foods -they come in bags and boxes with barcodes! (Wheat,corn,soy) An ordinary sandwich spikes insulin more than 2 T table sugar.
- Eliminate sugar - sugary snacks and drinks. It is poison to the body and becomes white fat.
- Increase Omega 3s: Eat fatty fish, grass-fed beef, pasture-raised poultry, oysters, flax seeds, nuts
- Go Organic - eliminate pesticides, herbicides, additives (these kill your microbiome)
- Eat grass-fed dairy - cheese can actually be good for you. high in K2 and other phytonutrients
- Eat low glycemic carbs - the rainbow of vegetables and fruits - stick to ones that do NOT spike a huge insulin response like potatoes.
- Eat more fat! Every cell in your body needs it, especially your brain! Choose HP-EVOO, avocado, ghee, grass-fed butter and coconut fat
- IF - intermittent fasting - like 12-18 hours without food. Eat your meals within an 8 hour window and stop snacking. We have >200 genes that help us adapt to scarcity and starvation. We have 0 designed for abundance. When we fast for several hours, our body’s clean-up system goes to work. This is called autophagy. The pancreas doesn’t have to make insulin, so now it can make enzymes that heal the body. Old cells, misfolded proteins, bacteria, viruses, cells becoming cancerous and old mitochondria are removed and recycled. Brand new mitochondria are made. This is like upgrading your body’s power supply! Your body makes new cells, new mitochondria, new proteins. All organ systems are able to rest and reboot, enhancing overall performance. Brain fog goes away, energy actually goes up.
- Autophagy - body’s clean-up system. Skip eating for one whole day (24 hours). Try once per month to start. You can do this once per week when your body gets accustomed. IF and EVOO help stimulate this system!!
- Include fermented foods - sauerkraut, kimchi, greek yogurt - if you don’t get a histamine reaction.
- Take ACV - Organic Apple Cider Vinegar (with the mother) - acts directly to lower blood sugar, much like metformin (the 4th most prescribed drug). Take on an empty stomach with water before meals.
- Lemon - Feb 2021 study in Eur J Nutr: “lemon juice significantly lowered the mean blood glucose concentration peak by 30% (p < 0.01) and delayed it more than 35 min (78 vs. 41 min with water, p < 0.0001)…the effect of lemon juice was similar to what has been repeatedly observed with vinegar and other acidic foods. Including acidic beverages or foods in starchy meals thus appears to be a simple and effective strategy to reduce their glycemic impact.”
- Prebiotic - This is the fiber or food for our good microbes. Fiber also binds to remove extra cholesterol to help normalize cholesterol levels.
- Probiotic - Fix your gut microbiome, which is depleted in nearly everyone.
- Exercise - Improves function of insulin-binding receptors! Improves cellular uptake of insulin, decreasing blood sugar and blood insulin levels. Daily walking, moderate exercise, resistance exercise. Get a good sweat!!
- Meditate - Reducing stress is a very important component to lowering blood pressure. Utilize slow, rhythmic soft-belly breathing and mindful meditation.
- Cold shower - (if not sick) Take a hot shower, but end it with straight cold x 1 minute. This triggers so many good things in your body, including reducing stress, blood pressure and inflammation, enhancing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory molecules, blood flow, energy and more. This stimulates your body to make more mitochondria!!!!
- Avoid alcohol - this spikes insulin like crazy so moderation is key.
- Sleep - make it a priority. Go to bed by 10. Eliminate LED and blue light an hour before bedtime. Take a hot bath. Utilize infrared and incandescent lighting. Light a fire or a candle.
- Hydrate - drink at least 1/2 your body weight in oz/day. Drink more if you take medications. Put a pinch of Himalayan sea salt under your tongue for the electrolytes.
Okay, there are so many things we can do to help lower our blood pressure. Look at food differently than you have before. Evaluate if it will take you on the road toward health or the road toward disease. Treat yourself to a good grass-fed steak with sautéed veggies (not starchy like potatoes), or a good Caesar salad with free-range organic chicken. There are SOOO MANY yummy foods you CAN enjoy. You’ll want to keep doing it because you’ll begin to feel better. You will begin to see changes in as little as 10 days and you may be able to stop taking blood pressure meds after as little as 4-6 weeks! Consult your MD before stopping meds or starting any supplements.
Here are the best supplements to consider:
- Turmeric - curcumin is a super anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory and has been shown to improve fasting blood sugar as well as lower diastolic blood pressure. Black pepper increases absorption by >70%.
- Berberine - the next Turmeric. Anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-diabetic (better than metformin), anti-arrhythmic (involves calcium), anti-hypertensive. “Berberine in patients with metabolic syndrome can effectively regulate blood glucose and blood lipid of patients, alleviate insulin resistance and reduce the level of inflammatory response in the body.”
- Vitamin C = anti-inflammatory, involved in both innate and adaptive immune response. Decreases: HTN, blood glucose, oxidative stress, FBG (fasting blood glucose), uric acid (gout), all-cause disease. Increases skeletal muscle, low plasma levels increase CVD risk. Supplementation + metformin reversed low blood levels in T2D. Reduces risk of viral infections, even Covid-19 Immun. 28,Oct 2020
- Vitamin D3 - nearly everyone is vit D deficient. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with a decreased insulin release, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes in experimental and epidemiological studies. Animal studies show that 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1,25(OH)2D3) stimulates the pancreatic β-cell to secrete insulin. The relationship between vitamin D deficiency and insulin resistance could develop through inflammation, as vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased inflammatory markers.” Guess what? MOST people are vitamin D deficient!!! We don’t synthesize it from the sun as well when we get older. Also, the more melanin in your skin, the less vitamin D you synthesize. Vitamin D is required for calcium uptake in the bones.
- Vitamin K2 - SOO important for preventing calcium from being deposited on the lining of our blood vessels. It is MADE by bacteria in our gut! So, if you have taken antibiotics or have gut issues, you need to supplement.
- Potassium - “Studies show that people with low potassium levels release less insulin, have higher blood sugar levels, and are more likely to get type 2 diabetes than those with normal potassium levels.”
- Magnesium - “higher dietary magnesium intake is strongly associated with the attenuation of insulin resistance and is more beneficial for overweight and obese individuals in the general population and pre-menopausal women. Moreover, the inverse correlation between insulin resistance and dietary magnesium intake is stronger when adjusting for %BF than BMI.”
- Zinc - >2 billion people are deficient due to glyphosate, pesticides and herbicides as well as soil depletion. These chemicals bind zinc and many other important minerals and chelate them from the soil so it never makes it into the food.
- Omega 3s - fish oil - Especially DHA and EPA are antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, anti-arrhythmic, anti-thrombotic and vasodilatory. They go a long way in protecting the endothelium from oxidative damage in several ways.
- HP-EVOO - high polyphenol extra virgin olive oil - Powerful polyphenols are antioxidants and anti-inflammatory. Oleic Acid acts directly on the endothelium to improve vascular pliability, preventing platelet aggregation. The polyphenols in EVOO are powerful antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer! In the blood vessels, oleuropein (just one of the many polyphenols) has anti-platelet aggregation, vasodilation, hypotensive, anti-rheumatic, antipyretic and diuretic effects. It exerts its ability to prevent free radicals by chelating metal ions, such as Cu and Fe that catalyze free radical generation, therefore preventing oxidation of LDLs (low-density lipoproteins). It inhibits oxidative stress and hyperglycemia (T2D). Check out blog # 51 This superfood helps heal the endothelial lining of our blood vessels as well as our intestinal epithelium. It reduces stress on the pancreas and prevents the high insulin response. In the Journal of Functional Foods August 2021, researchers reported that high polyphenol EVOO improved insulin functionality in 2 ways, increasing insulin sensitivity and insulin release. A study published in the International Journal of Cardiology, March 2021 looked at the post-prandial (after meal) effects of HP-EVOO on endothelial function (EF) in adults at risk for type 2 diabetes. They noted HP-EVOO “acutely enhanced EF in the study cohort, whereas refined olive oil did not.” The endothelium is the lining of our blood vessels. This demonstrates the protective role of HP-EVOO in preventing atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease, even when you have a metabolic disorder!!!
Okay, there are multiple things we can do to lower blood pressure and put us on the road to health. Try to implement some or all of these for 10 days. You’ll begin to see a huge difference in the way you feel. You may even start to drop weight. If you commit to 6 weeks, you most likely will be able to stop blood pressure and cholesterol medication. When I started my journey, my cholesterol dropped 76 points in 5 weeks!!! Let me know your progress!!