There are better, natural alternatives to this new high-tech out-of-control approach to lowering your blood pressure.
It is estimated that 76.4 million people in the US have high blood pressure—1.2 billion people worldwide. Of course, the definition of what constitutes high blood pressure keeps changing, with the not-so-coincidental result that drug companies sell more and more drugs. More than 42 million people in the US currently take drugs to curb hypertension.
Many of these people do need to get their blood pressure down. It isn’t all about selling drugs. But here’s the rub: the drugs often don’t work or work well enough. So dozens of hospitals and scientists are testing a profoundly invasive new procedure: a catheter is threaded through blood vessels in the groin up into the kidneys to literally burn away overactive nerves deep in the body that are thought to contribute to rising blood pressure.
Nerves in the body’s fight-or-flight system play a role in signaling kidney functions, which in turn may affect blood pressure, such as by relaxing or tightening key arteries. Sometimes those nerves stay switched on when they shouldn’t be—which blood pressure drugs can’t address. The problem is that some people have overactive nervous systems, so blood pressure can be high even in situations that are not dangerous. At least that’s the theory. The medical industry’s hope is that destroying some of the nerves will calm an overactive system, relaxing arteries and lowering blood pressure.
Will this work for you? Maybe, maybe not. And what about the potential side effects? They include bleeding, injured blood vessels, immediate blood pressure or heart problems, and complications from the medications used during procedure. Of course, these are just the known short-term side effects. No one yet knows what the long-term side effects might be.
The procedure promises to be incredibly lucrative because of the huge number of people in the world who have high blood pressure. Companies offering the equipment could make between $1.5 billion and $4.4 billion annually and then there is the cost of performing this complicated procedure. Medtronic currently leads the market with its nerve cell burning device, but competitors are developing other devices as well. The procedure is already approved in Europe and Asia, though still going through approval process in the US. Researchers are also considering using the same approach to lower blood sugar, control sleep apnea, and ease heart failure and kidney disease. In time, maybe all of these uses will be candidates to burn our nerves! Sounds almost as good as the bloodletting that doctors insisted on in the 18th and earlier centuries.
As noted above, hypertension drugs are big business, even when they don’t work, so why stop them after the procedure? It is no surprise that many patients are given these same hypertension drugs after the invasive nerve-deadening surgery—ensuring pharmaceutical profits both before and after the procedure.
All of this completely ignores what integrative medicine has known all along: that high blood pressure is a symptom of other problems. It may stem from a poor fatty acid profile, other diet issues, obesity, high stress levels, insulin resistance, and other conditions. Dr. Jonathan Wright and others have also pointed out the link between heavy metal toxicity and high blood pressure.
It should be obvious that eliminating the symptom doesn’t solve the problem. Even if you get your blood pressure to perfectly normal levels, if you haven’t addressed the underlying imbalance, your health may not improve. This is a central tenet of integrative health. It’s about getting to the root of the problem—not just applying a Band-Aid, or worse, undergoing dangerous surgery.
Dr. Joseph A. Mercola advocates a natural approach to lowering your blood pressure:
- Control you blood sugar: In a 1998 study, two-thirds of patients who were insulin-resistant also had high blood pressure. Regulating blood sugar levels—which means cutting out sweets, starchy foods, and even grains—may bring blood pressure into a healthy range.
- Reduce your stress: The link between the stress and high blood pressure has been well established. Although some highly stressed individuals have perfectly normal pressure, changing your lifestyle to lessen stress and managing your emotional life more effectively may help you regulate your blood pressure.
- Get your fatty acid profile right: Most people get far too much omega-6 fatty acid (found in corn, soy, canola, safflower, and sunflower oils) in their diets, and far too little omega-3s (found among other places in walnuts, flaxseeds, and fish). Make sure you’re getting enough omega-3 fats through diet and supplementation.
- Watch your caffeine intake: Though the connection is not understood, there is evidence that too much caffeine can make hypertension worse.
- Lose weight: If you lose the excess fat and maintain your weight loss, you can reduce blood pressure in the long term. It is important to eat to your own specific nutritional needs.
- Get moving: Studies suggest that aerobic exercise is important for—and best at—lowering blood pressure.
- Get enough vitamin D: Vitamin D deficiency, which is linked to insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, increases parathyroid hormone production, increasing blood pressure. D is also a negative inhibitor of the renin-angiotensin system (RAS) which regulates blood pressure.
Dr. Mercola also recommends taking calcium and magnesium, vitamins C and E, and olive leaf extract to help control high blood pressure. Dr. Wright also suggests potassium for hypertension.
And there are also other foods besides omega-3 oils that can lower your numbers significantly: natto, celery, and beets. Alternatively one can use supplements: nattokinase or celery or beet extract.