Spiked blood pressure is deadly, leads to strokes, heart attacks and other heart problems, right? Not quite.
The fact: Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and hypertension is a contributing factor.
The fallacy: Spiked blood pressure kills indiscreetly
Spiked blood pressure, meds and heart disease
We know that about 30% of all adults in the United States have high blood pressure and we know that the percentage goes up with age. Statistically speaking, by the time we get to be 70, three quarters of us should expect to have spiked blood pressure.
But not to worry. There is no shortage of medication for hypertension. One can choose from diuretics to beta blockers, calcium channel blockers or others. They all work well. They lower the numbers for the patient, bring a peace of mind for the doctor and deliver a monumental profit for the manufacturers.
Currently three quarters of current US population is under medical supervision, so apparently our hearts are well taken care of. The prescriptions are flying off the shelves making patients, doctors, and big pharma happy. Between June 2011 and July 2012 Americans spent $US 2 billion on just one hypertensive medication alone, Diovan.[i]
- But supplements are not any better than drugs
- Start exercising, because spiked blood pressure isn’t genetic
- Get an accurate BP monitor, so you don’t ponder in doubt
Are you thinking what I am thinking? If we are willing to spend that kind of money on health how come we are dropping like flies from heart disease? Are the drugs so ineffective or something is seriously wrong with the approach?
High blood pressure kills in America, but not in Japan
One day I was sitting in a conference listening to my fellow doctor presenting on kidney disease. Since kidney and blood pressure go together there was a brief period when he mentioned hypertension. And here it was. He whipped out a chart that compared deaths from high blood pressure in different countries. That was an eye opener.
Before this presentation I believed that high blood pressure is a merciless killer cutting down lives all over the globe with equal vengeance. I never questioned that assumption. Thus, when I saw the chart I was stunned. Apparently spiked blood pressure kills selectively, only in some countries, but not the others.
That’s right. In one year a systolic number of 160 mmHg will kill 140 Americans or North Europeans out of 10,000 in a year, but only 25 Japanese or Southern Europeans.[ii] That’s less than one fifth. This is the moment you should scratch your head with disbelief.
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Spiked blood pressure isn’t deadly
Let’s start with this: high blood pressure does not kill. Otherwise everyone with high numbers will be equally in danger. But you know everyone is different. And while one person can tolerate 220 mmHg for someone else a mere 150 mmHg may be a death sentence.
You may not know this, but our blood pressure fluctuates all the time. How high it goes, depends largely on the situation. Stress as well as mere expectation of stress, can cause high blood pressure in susceptible individuals, so can many other common circumstances.
One example is exercise. Physical exertion and especially weight lifting nearly always leads to spiked blood pressure. For example, an average leg press spikes blood pressure to 320/250 mmHg. In some lifters BP can go up to 480/350 mmHg.[iii]
But think about it. If spiked blood pressure is a killer than anybody lifting weights would do it only once. Yet, we don’t hear that gym goers are dying in droves. So does high blood pressure kill or not?
Whom should you believe? After all, your doctor is adamant that you should start taking meds when your blood pressure spikes above 140/90 mmHg. Should you take the prescription? If you are in North America or Northern Europe you should. And not only that. You should go for a hearing test as well (you will find out why in a few paragraphs).
- How to control fluctuating blood pressure without medication
- Start a heart-friendly, planet-friendly, simple & yummy anti-inflammatory diet
A hidden life of arterial plaque
Since you’ve learnt that spiked blood pressure puts only some individuals in danger, have you wondered why that may be so? Why is it that spiked blood pressure causes havoc in North America and Northern Europe, but not in Japan?
The answer is: elasticity of the arteries. North Americans arteries aren’t too elastic, which make them a heart disease accomplice. But stiff arteries aren’t hereditary. Arterial plaque develops from poor lifestyle habits, not from faulty genes.
Inelastic arteries are like straws. They are stiff like PVC pipes in a hardware store. They can’t bend, bow, or twist. They cannot expand or contract. They are bad at buffering blood pressure, exactly the job they are supposed to do. When blood pressure spikes, stiff arteries don’t widen, as healthy arteries do. Besides being stiffer, cholesterol-blocked arteries are also more fragile, thus they don’t perform under pressure. When the numbers go up they are the first ones to crack and split.
Healthy arteries, arteries without plaque are elastic. Elastic arteries are flexible and expandable, and they work well under pressure. They expand and contract on demand. They function well and aren’t prone to rupture. They are good at buffering blood pressure spikes and are good at circulating blood. They cushion blood pressure spikes well and prevent sudden deaths.
Now you can see that it is not just high blood pressure, but high blood pressure accompanied by inelastic arteries we should be concerned about. It is the combination of the two that is the biggest killer and this is the main difference between surviving and dying.
How’s your hearing test?
If you live in North America, or Northern Europe you may be scratching your head now. Since the mortality statistics are not favorable for these geographic locations would living there make your arteries automatically stiff and calcified? Chances are, yes. And not due the fact that everyone speaks English, but due to a crappy diet and lack of exercise these regions are known for.
This is where the hearing test comes in handy, because loss of hearing may be the first warning sign of calcified arteries. Research shows that declining hearing frequently goes hand in hand with stiff arteries.[iv] This is not surprising given that ears require flawless micro-circulation and good blood flow to function well. So if you are spending money on heart medication as well as hearing aids.. we have a problem.
Can you touch your toes?
For those who can still hear well there are other ways to suspect arterial calcification. Did you know that body flexibility and arterial stiffness go hand in hand? If you can’t squat, touch your toes, or sit in a lotus pose you are stiff, so likely are your arteries. You may not be a circus performer and you may not care to show a toe to mouth trick, but you have to know that tissue flexibility has its merits. It makes hypertension less dangerous.
Can you have a subtle body if you host PVC pipes inside? I don’t think so. But you can re-elasticize the arteries, just by doing bends and twists. Flexibility exercises have been shown to be able to re-elasticize those stiff blood vessels, at least partially. One year of yoga was shown to reverse 20% of arterial lesions.[v]
Spiked blood pressure no more?
What’s the moral of the story? Should you worry about hypertension or should you drop your BP meds? None of that.
There is a simpler solution: get moving and stop eating junk. Spiked blood pressure does not kill. Crappy lifestyle does. Get yourself 69 Pleasures to start a heart-healthy diet or The Ultimate Guide to Low & Fluctuating BP to learn about causes and natural solutions to BP fluctuations.
Health troubles are seldom random
Do your beliefs support your health goals?
You mentioned “arterial calcification” many times.
Isn’t excess of calcium calcifies arteries? No calcium excess no calcification. Think about it.
Are you saying that two glasses of milk a day will give a person high blood pressure? Things don’t work this way. Neither all cases of high blood pressure are due to calcification of arteries.
1) Calcium absorption is tightly controlled, so is calcium blood level. It’s levels won’t go up just because you had an extra slice of cheese. Besides, lack of calcium in the diet does not prevent arterial calcification.
2) Arterial calcification is a result of arterial inflammation, not excess calcium. However, calcium follows inflammation and will get deposited in arteries if inflammation is present (regardless of dietary intake of calcium)
3) High blood pressure of the worst kind is due to calcified arteries. When calcification is advanced blood pressure has a specific pattern: pulse pressure widens. The bigger the difference between systolic and diastolic the stiffer the arteries.
4) Calcified arteries are in most cases a result of chronic systemic inflammation, which is due to poor lifestyle habits. Processed food (especially high heat) is the biggest contributor to systemic inflammation.
I hope I clarified the confusion about how calcium ends up calcifying the arteries in people with hypertension.
Very interesting process: calcification without calcium