Nearly 20 percent of midlife women in the U.S. have high blood pressure or hypertension, which increases the risk not only of heart attack and atherosclerosis, but also of ministrokes in the brain, resulting in dementia. Hypertension also increases your risk for kidney disease.
Contributing factors to hypertension include genetics, obesity, and salt consumption. Anger or stress can elevate blood pressure, as well, although the effect is generally temporary. In fact, blood pressure fluctuates all the time (hour by hour and day by day—sometimes even because of a visit to the doctor!). Millions of people have been overdiagnosed and treated unnecessarily because of this.
Samuel J. Mann, M.D., professor of clinical medicine at the Hypertension Center of The New York Presbyterian Hospital-Weill/ Cornell Medical Center in New York City, believes way too much emphasis has been placed on angry personalities as being a risk factor and not nearly enough on those who repress their anger. He believes that our hidden emotions (those we repress due to traumatic experiences) are much more significant contributors to hypertension. To effectively treat this disorder at its core, he says, people with hypertension must become aware of their hidden emotions and deal with them.
What I like best about Dr. Mann’s ideas is that he points out that we have a choice: Those who are willing to face their hidden demons can take on the work of uncovering them, while those who don’t want to deal with these issues can opt for the standard medical treatment to help control the condition. Generally it’s not easy to deal with these issues, and the process can be painful. However, it may be worth it.
Listen to Your Body
According to the 2017 ACC/AHA Guidelines, you are considered to have “Stage 1 hypertension” if your blood pressure is greater than 130/80.
What Causes This
See Heart Disease.
If lifestyle changes and supplements fail, consider blood-pressure-lowering medication, but be aware that these medications can have side effects such as dizziness, headaches, and fatigue.
Spiritual and Holistic Options
You can significantly lower your blood pressure with lifestyle changes such as getting regular exercise (brisk walking works, or some other activity done for at least 30 minutes, four times per week), biofeedback, learning how to deal with stress effectively, adopting an insulin-normalizing and hormone-balancing diet (low in simple carbohydrates and trans fats and including adequate protein and omega-3 fatty acids), and losing excess weight. Even in very overweight women, losing only ten to twenty pounds will often lower blood pressure significantly.
For the 60 percent of individuals whose hypertension is related to sodium, the effect of sodium on blood pressure can be reversed by decreasing sodium intake and increasing the intake of potassium–namely from fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains. (Potassium supplements have been shown to significantly lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, but these have side effects, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and ulcers, when given in pill form at high dosage levels.) Drugs such as diuretics, laxatives and aspirin can also deplete potassium levels. Prolonged exercise is associated with loss of potassium as well—up to 3,000 mg of potassium can be lost in one day by sweating. Most Americans have a potassium-to-sodium dietary ratio of 1:2, but researchers recommend a 5:1 ratio.
Check your multivitamin for these ingredients. If they are missing, add two or three of the following:
- Coenzyme Q-10 (90–240 mg/day). Digiesi1
- Calcium (400–1,000 mg/day).
- Magnesium (400–1,000 mg/day) (Note: start with a low dose and work up, because too much magnesium can cause loose stools.)
- Tocotrienols, the most potent part of the vitamin E complex (25–50 mg per day). Newaz2
- Omega-3 fats (200-2,500 mg DHA and 500-2,500 mg EPA, for a total of 1000-5000 mg per day), Fisher3 found in nuts, seeds, flax, and cold water fish such as salmon and sardines.
- L–arginine (500–1,000 mg per day).
- Acetyl–L–carnitine (1000-3000 mg per day). Fernandez4
- Garlic (Look for a supplement that contains the equivalent of 4,000 mg fresh garlic, with a guaranteed amount of the active ingredient allicin). Jain5
Learn More — Additional Resources
- The Wisdom of Menopause, by Christiane Northrup, M.D., Chapter 7, “The Menopause Food Plan: A Program to Balance Your Hormones and Prevent Middle-Aged Spread”
- Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, by Christiane Northrup, M.D.,Chapter 17, “Nourishing Ourselves with Food”
- Healing Hypertension: A Revolutionary New Approach, by Samuel J. Mann, M.D.
- Minding the Body, Mending the Mind, by Joan Borysenko
- Digiesi, V., et al. (1990). Effect of coenzyme Q10 on essential hypertension. Current Therapy Research, 47, 841–845; Ghirlandi, G., et al. (1993). Evidence of plasma CoQ10-lowering effects by HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors: A double-blind, placebo-controlled study. J. Clinical Pharmacology, 33, 226–229; Sinatra, S. (2000). Heart sense for women, 108. Washington, DC: Lifeline; Sinatra, S. (1998). The coenzyme Q10 phenomenon. New Cannan, CT: Keats Publishing; Singh, R. B., et al. (1999). Effect of hydrosoluble coenzyme Q10 on blood pressures and insulin resistance in hypertensive patients with coronary artery disease. J. Human Hypertension, 13 (3), 203–208; Yamagami, T., et al. (1977). Study of coenzyme Q10 in essential hypertension. In K. Folkers & Y. Yamamura (eds.), Biochemical and clinical aspects of coenzyme Q10, vol. 1, 231–242. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
- Newaz, M. A., & Nawal, N. N. (1999). Effect of gamma–tocotrienol on blood pressure, lipid peroxidation and total antioxidant status in spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR). Clin. Exp. Hypertens., 21 (8), 1297–1313; Sen, C. K., Khanna, S., Roy, S., & Packer, L. (2000). Molecular basis of vitamin E action. Tocotrienol potently inhibits glutamate-induced pp60(c-Src) kinase activation and death of HT4 neuronal cells. J. Biol. Chem., 275 (17), 13049–13055; Theriault, A., Chao, J. T., Wang, Q., Gapor, A., & Adeli, K. (1999). Tocotrienol: A review of its therapeutic potential. Clin. Biochem., 32 (5), 309–319.
- H., Fisher, M., Schneider, P. B., Whitten, R. H., Weiner, B. H., Ockene, I. S., Johnson, B. F., Johnson, M. H., Doyle, E. M., Riendeau, P. A., et al. (1989). Dietary supplementation with omega–3 fatty acids prolongs platelet survival in hyperlipidemic patients with atherosclerosis. Arch. Intern. Med., 149 (5), 1113–1116; von Schacky, C. (1987). Prophylaxis of atherosclerosis with marine omega-3 fatty acids. A comprehensive strategy. Ann. Intern. Med., 107 (6), 890–899; von Schacky, C., Angerer, P., Kothny, W., Theisen, K., & Mudra, H. (1999). The effect of dietary omega–3 fatty acids on coronary atherosclerosis. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Ann. Intern. Med., 130 (7), 554–562.
- Fernandez, C., and Proto, C. (1992). L-carnitine in the treatment of chronic myocardial ischemia: An analysis of 3 multicenter studies and a bibliographic review. Clin. Ter. 140 (4), 353–377; Kobayashi, A., Masumura, Y., Yamazaki, N. (1992). L-carnitine treatment for congestive heart failure — experimental and clinical study. Jpn. Circ. J., 56 (1), 86–94; Postiglione, A., Cicerano, U., Soricelli, A., De Chiara, S., Gallotta, G., Salvatore, M., & Mancini, M. (1990). Cerebral blood flow in patients with chronic cerebrovascular disease: Effect of acetyl-L-carnitine. Int. J. Clin. Pharmacol. Res., 10 (1–2), 129–132.
- Jain, A. K., et al. (1993). Can garlic reduce levels of serum lipids? A controlled clinical study. Am. J. Medicine, 94, 632–635; Kleijnen, J., et al. (1989). Garlic, onions, and cardiovascular risk factors: A review of the evidence from human experiements with emphasis on commercially available preparations. Br. J. Clin. Pharmacol., 28, 535–544; Mader, F. H. (1990). Treatment of hyperlipidaemia with garlic powder tablets. Arzneim.–Forsch., 40, 1111–1116; McMahon, F. G. & Vargas, R. (1993). Can garlic lower blood pressure? A pilot study. Pharmacotherapy, 13 (4), 406–407.