Hypertension: Taking the Pressure Off - Part 2

Hypertension: Taking the Pressure Off - Part 2

Blood Viscosity, Thick Blood

If the blood becomes thick and sludgy, more pressure is required to carry it through the blood vessels and hypertension commences. 110 When blood thickens we say that the viscosity has increased too much. What actually happens is that the red blood cells stick together in a series or chain. We call this phenomenon rouleaux. 111 Factors known to influence blood toward increased viscosity and rouleaux include stress, dehydration, consuming refined foods, high blood cholesterol, high fat diet, overeating, and the accumulation of waste products in the intestines.

Refined foods, such as oils and sugars, make red blood cells stick together in clusters or chains called rouleaux that can be seen under a microscope. Higher blood pressure is required to circulate this thickened blood. 112


Because eating a high amount of fat causes rouleaux, food with saturated fat, (i.e. animal products, butter, 113 margarine, shortening, and/or coconut oil, 114 etc) significantly increases the risk of hypertension. In turn, consumption of these products also raise the blood cholesterol, thickening the blood further and raising blood pressure. 115 Even God has weighed in on the fat question, “Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, Ye shall eat no manner of fat,…” 116

Compared to natural occurring vegetable fats, lard significantly increases blood pressure and risk of hypertension. 117 This problem is worse as one gets older. 118 These scientific facts help explain why God said, “And the swine, because it divideth the hoof, yet cheweth not the cud, it is unclean unto you: ye shall not eat of their flesh, nor touch their dead carcase.” 119 One group of researchers wanted to see what would happen if people were place on a animal fat free diet for 10 days. It was discovered that ten days on an animal fat free diet significantly reduced blood pressure. 120 It is interesting to note that a similar experiment was entered upon around 600 B.C. in Babylon. 121 Daniel was a Jewish captive of Babylon. When offered a diet of meat he requested, “Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse (vegetables) to eat, and water to drink.” 122 The outcome was that Daniel and 3 other colleagues who shared the intervention arm of the study did ten times better in school than all the other university students.

What about processed vegetable oils? These oils are not free from health risk just because they come from plants. Refined oils, especially canola oil, 123 increase hypertension 124 and the risk of stroke at a younger age. 125

Another problem with oils is what happens to them when they are subjected to heat. For example, heating oils in a pan causes serious deterioration in their quality turning them toxic so that they contribute to the onset and severity of hypertension. 126

Do you know how much fat is in the food you eat? Fat in the diet increases blood pressure because it thickens the blood, makes the blood vessels stiff 127 and causes endothelial dysfunction. 128 What is endothelial dysfunction? Nitric oxide is used in the body to relax blood vessels. When the blood vessels respond poorly to nitric oxide relaxation we say it is a result of the inner lining or endothelium of the blood vessel being sick or dysfunctional hence; endothelial dysfunction. 129 Foods that decrease vascular sensitivity to nitric oxide relaxation signals include: high fat, 130 salt, 131 , 132 cholesterol 134 (especially dietary oxidized cholesterol 136 ), overeating, 137 , 138 sugar 140 (especially fructose 142 ), and glycation of proteins as happens in diabetes. 143

The Vaso-Relaxing Diet

On the other hand proper diet has a significant impact on the responsiveness of your blood vessels to nitric oxide relaxation. I call it the vaso-relaxing diet, meaning it makes your blood vessels more responsive to relaxation messages from your body. Dietary changes known to improve vascular responsiveness include: a vegetarian diet, 144 oats (oatmeal), 145 tomatoes, 146 diets rich in antioxidants 147 such as vitamin E, 148 and minerals like zinc 149 and copper. 150

Omega-3 deficiency leads to hypertension. 151 Flaxseed and walnuts are good dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are very antithrombotic and anti-inflammatory. In contrast, omega-6 fatty acids, which are present in refined vegetable oils and meat, are prothrombotic (causing blood clots) and proinflammatory. Omega-3 fatty acids also aid in the treatment of hyperlipidemia, hypertension, and rheumatoid arthritis. 152

The Deadly Mix: Fat and Sugar

When combined, fat and sugar form a deadly mix. The risk of hypertension from combining these two agents is not just additive, it is multiplicative 154 : meaning just small amounts of these two agents mixed together creates an enormous health hazard.

The American Sweet Tooth

Speaking of sugar, (and refined carbohydrates, like white flour, white pasta, white rice, and refined breakfast cereals, which turn immediately to sugar in your blood stream), twenty (20) teaspoons of sugar raises your blood pressure by 2 mmHg, forty (40) teaspoons raises it by 5 mmHg. 155 The average American consumes 47 tsp of sugar each day of their lives. 156 The danger of sugar in the diet is that it ends up in the blood stream. As the blood sugar rises so does the blood pressure. 157

Not all carbohydrates are created equal. Sugar and complex carbohydrates may carry the same theoretical calories per gram, but the impact on the blood sugar, the risk of hypertension and diabetes complications are very different. 158 Complex carbohydrates from an unrefined plant based diet are much better tolerated, decrease the risk of hypertension and provide a nutrient dense diet that improves health. 159 So how do sugar and other refined carbohydrates cause hypertension? Refined carbohydrates cause hypertension by increased production of norepinephrine, dopamine and epinephrine, and by causing blood vessel wall thickening. 160 The secret is to quit consuming sugar. It works and blood pressure comes down. 161

Sugar is an accumulative poison. Refined carbohydrates create a sticky coating of sugar all over your blood cells, blood vessels and other body tissues. The more refined processed foods you eat, the higher your blood sugar goes and the more this sticky sweet substance coats the tissues of your body. This coating is called glycation and accumulates over time, leading to vascular and heart muscle stiffness, atherosclerotic plaque and hypertension. The more refined food you eat in your lifetime the greater your chance of having high blood pressure as you age. 162 People on an unrefined plant based diet enjoy a cleaner cardiovascular system and may avoid high blood pressure all together as they get older. 163

Eating refined carbohydrates has a downside of leading to a condition called insulin resistance, where the cells of the body no longer take sugar out of the blood stream in response to normal insulin levels. 164 , 165 Examples of refined carbohydrates shown to increase insulin resistance include: white rice, 166 white flour (as found in pastries and white bread) 168 and processed sugar. 169 , 170 Of particular concern among 5 refined carbohydrates is fructose, its ability to create insulin resistance and hypertension surpasses table sugar. 171 , 172

Additional causes of insulin resistance include a high fat diet, 173 eating between meals or snacking 174 and obesity. 175 The results of insulin resistance are high cholesterol values 176 and of course, hypertension. 177 , 178 , 179 People who never provoke their insulin to overproduction by eating refined carbohydrates also never experience insulin driven hypertension. 180 Eat only as much refined carbohydrates as you would like to see your blood pressure go high.

Speaking of fructose, drinking one fructose-sweetened soda per day can increase the risk of hypertension by 77%. 181 In case you were thinking artificial sweeteners were a good alternative, think again. Artificial sweeteners like aspartame give some people very high blood pressure. 182 Stopping these sweeteners can be the secret to lowering some people’s blood pressure. 183 On the other hand there is a non-sugar sweetener, which has been shown to improve blood pressure and that is stevia. 184 It does this by acting as calcium channel blocker (the mechanism of action of some pharmaceutical blood pressure drugs). 185

Hardening of The Arteries

Hardening of the arteries causes resistance to free flow of the blood. Blood vessels normally expand and relax with each beat of the heart. If the blood vessels become hard, their stiffness inhibits the free flow of blood with each beat of the heart and the pressure goes up. 186 , 187 Atherosclerotic plaque is an example of this process. 188 If a plaque narrows the diameter of a blood vessel, more pressure is required to get the same amount of blood through the smaller opening.

Other conditions leading to this mechanism of blood pressure elevation include: increased body inflammation 189 (also known as oxidative stress), physical inactivity, and endothelial dysfunction. Endothelial dysfunction is a deadening of the blood vessel wall so that it no longer responds to the bodies relaxing signals. Endothelial dysfunction leads to unresponsive arteries and veins. Unresponsive arteries and veins resist free flow of blood to the tissues raising the blood pressure required to move the same volume of blood. Things that cause endothelial dysfunction include high blood sugars with sugar coating of the endothelium, uric acid with deadening of the endothelium, and high fat which also deadens the endothelium so that it will not relax and allow blood to pass freely.

Inflammation and Endothelial Dysfunction

The role of inflammation in the development of hypertension is multifaceted. Besides causing endothelial dysfunction, it thickens blood vessel walls making blood flow more difficult and raising the pressure required for normal circulation. As a consequence, blood pressure goes up with increasing inflammation. 190 People with more inflammation have a 40% higher risk of hypertension. 191 Many people realize that there is an association between salt intake and a rise in blood pressure. In fact, even though arterial hypertension is a major cause of diseaserelated morbidity and mortality worldwide, it is nearly absent in populations that consume natural foods containing little or no salt. 192 This is partly due to fluid retention, 193 , 194 but it is also due to inflammation. 195 Excessive salt intake causes hypertension and kidney injury, in part, by oxidative stress that inflames the blood vessel walls and kidneys. 196

Toxins in the Environment

Lead 197 and arsenic 198 are environmental poisons that raise whole body inflammation and have been shown to cause hypertension. Lead is a common contaminant in old paint, dust around old houses and can even be found in supplements such as calcium. 199 Arsenic often contaminates public drinking water 200 and bottled water. 201 Arsenic is used in chicken and hog feed as a growth promoter and is present in the meats of these animals. Arsenic is an approved feed supplement that farmers use to control intestinal parasites in chickens. 202 As a consequence, eggs 203 and chicken meat 204 prove to be dietary sources of arsenic. Seafood (because fish swim in polluted waters) has been found to be a significant source of arsenic in those that consume seafood. 205 Avoid arsenic and avoid hypertension.

How Much Antioxidant Do I Need?

The secret to inflammation management is having a good offense. Antioxidants and phytochemicals from plant foods provide this; they lower the inflammation in your body 206 , 207 and normalize your blood pressure. 208 You may be asking how much antioxidant do I need? Can I get too much? You may be interested to find out that lifestyle measures are not easily overdosed, they have more marked results in more difficult cases and they do not cause dangerous side effects. Antioxidants only lower blood pressure in people with hypertension, not in normal healthy people. 209

Diet is not the only way to have a positive impact on your antioxidant defense system. Exercise helps reduce the body’s inflammation resulting in lower blood pressure. 210

Since periodontal disease increases inflammation and hypertension, good oral hygiene can also be a key to good blood pressure control. 211

Beauty Rest Prescription

One of your bodies’ own defenses against elevated inflammation is the hormone produced by the pineal gland in your brain called melatonin. Melatonin is a natural antioxidant that reduces blood pressure. 212 Late evening artificial lighting impacts sleep, disrupts melatonin production, and raises blood pressure. 213 , 214 , 215 People who take regular hours for adequate sleep in total darkness have a healthier supply of melatonin and lower blood pressures. 216 , 217 Consequently, people who subject themselves to the irregularities in schedule afforded by shift work are at higher risk of hypertension. 218 , 219 That extra night’s pay may not be worth the risk high blood pressure. Regular day jobs are friendlier to blood pressure. We recommend a 9:30 p.m. bedtime for adequate melatonin production and healthier blood pressure.

People who go to sleep easily and get plenty of rest experience less hypertension. People who breathe freely at night, without sleep apnea or snoring, have lower blood pressures. 220


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