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Blood Pressure: What Is the Magic Number?

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120/80: Is that the magic number for blood pressure? You may have heard those numbers thrown around as the ideal max for a healthy blood pressure, but do you know what each number stands for, and is that really what current research supports?

The top number in a blood pressure reading stands for systolic pressure (during heart beats), while the bottom number represents diastolic blood pressure (between heart beats). If your first number tops 140, the medical profession often tells you it’s time for action, but is that really the time to start a treatment program?

There are two important points to consider: age matters, and how you get to the right number matters.

Recent studies have called into question the validity of traditional practice in treating blood pressure. For instance:

  • A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that at a certain age (85) higher blood pressure was a good thing.
  • A study in the Netherlands found that those on blood pressure drugs were more likely to suffer dementia—possibly due to a decreased blood supply to brain.
  • A recent study of 9000 participants found that treating those with a systolic reading of up to 159 with drugs had no positive impact on heart disease, stroke, or death rate. See http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/840560
  • A study in Italy found that cognitive decline was associated with those who had lower systolic reading due to intake of blood pressure drugs.

See the article, “Aggressive Blood Pressure Control Leads to Mental Decline,” on the website of The People’s Pharmacy.

Recently, the Journal of the American Medical Association raised the treatment guideline for those over the age of 60 from 140/90 to 150/90. Clearly, age of patient should be part of the equation.

Does salt really contribute to high blood pressure? According to the article, “5 Things Every Family Physician Should Know in 2015,” prepared foods with hidden sodium are the culprit rather than salt. And of course, there are natural salts, such as sea salt and Himalayan crystal salt, that are healthier than common table salt.

What are some of the drugs that are typically prescribed for high blood pressure? In attempting to treat one thing, adverse conditions are created elsewhere. Drugs in the “ARB” family can have serious side effects, and the same with ACE inhibitors. For elderly patients, dizziness can be caused by blood pressure medication, leading to increased risk for falls and fractures.

Are there natural alternatives to drugs for the treatment of high blood pressure? After all, what matters is how you get to a lower blood pressure. Anecdotal evidence suggests that dietary changes can produce desired readings in a much healthier way, such as juicing raw beets or following the Mediterranean diet. Exercise is helpful, as is stress reduction through activities such as meditation, prayer, yoga, and Tai Chi.

It is true that hypertension can put someone at risk of stroke, but don’t be afraid to consult a natural physician to see what natural treatments are available to put your blood pressure in a healthy range.

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