Chemicals Which Cause High Blood Pressure
We have looked now at two things that can cause high blood pressure:
1. Thick, sticky, sluggish blood and
2. Vascular or vessel resistance
Now we will look at the third category of causes for high blood pressure:
3. Chemicals that can cause high blood pressure.
For simplicity we will divide this category into chemicals your body produces and chemicals we put into our bodies. In medical terms we call it endogenous (from inside our body) vs. exogenous(from out side our body).
Sodium- Sodium is probably one of the most famous high blood pressure causing substances. While the exact mechanism of salt causing a high blood pressure is not completely understood there are several ideas. Salt tends to expand blood volume by holding the water in the vessels. If you put a liter of water in a balloon and add another liter it will obviously create a greater amount of pressure. It is also thought that an increased amount of salt in the body increases the body’s reactions to things which may raise blood pressure. For instance in the presence of a higher concentration of salt in the cells a person is more prone to the flight or fight response than they would have been with lower salt levels in their cells. This results in more renin, catecholamine and other vessel constricting chemical release.
We once had a friend stay at our home for several days. This friend was a quadriplegic and had trouble with his blood pressure dropping too low. When this occurred he was prepared with the treatment, a small can of tomato juice. The salt content in just 4-6 oz of tomato juice was enough to boost up his blood pressure, eliminating the dizziness and fatigue that went along with it. It worked in just minutes.
Whatever the mechanism, a reduction in salt can make a huge difference in many people’s blood pressure readings. Medical literature is quick to point out that not everyone is “salt sensitive”. In other words they have done studies where people limited their sodium intake and it did not cure their high blood pressure. In fact when they study this phenomenon in rats they must be careful to get “salt sensitive” rats. However, I have seen dramatic reductions in Blood pressures when people are appropriately trained as to where sodium hides and how to limit it in their diet while still having delicious food to eat. It must be stressed that a low sodium diet is not a Salt Free diet. You just have to know how to do it so it tastes good!
Click here for more information on how not only survive but thrive on a low salt (sodium chloride) diet..
Alcohol- A landmark study published in 1977 showed that alcohol consumption correlated strongly with high blood pressure. (Klatsky AL, FreidmanGD, Siegelaub, AB. Alcohol consumption and blood pressure. N. England J. Med 296 (21) 1194). Three drinks per day strongly correlated with high blood pressure. It is estimated that as high as 10% of hypertension cases can be related to alcohol consumption.
Cocaine- This illegal drug has been shown to cause high blood pressure.
Licorice- Licorice, a simple herb which is known to increase blood pressure.
Corticosteroids- Corticosteriods are a powerful drug used to stop the process of severe inflammation. They may be used for a short time in patients who are critically ill from, for example asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, or to prevent the progression of destructive autoimmune processes. They have many bad side effects, such as high blood pressure, high blood glucose, muscle atrophy, occasional severe paranoia and delusions, so their use is and should be limited to only critical situations.
Cholesterol- Cholesterol causes increased blood pressure by causing plaques to be laid down which causes vascular resistance. The avoidance of this substance is one of the keys to the success of many lifestyle treatments advocated by Dr. Castelli MD, Dr. Esselstyn, Dr. McDougal MD, Dr. Campbell PhD, Dr. Pritikin MD, Dr. Diehl PhD and a whole host of other educators with effective programs that effectively help people to reduce their high blood pressure problems. To help you know how to limit this substance from being poured into your body, use this rule of thumb: avoid anything that was birthed or secreted from a mother or has or had a face prior to processing. For example, meat, eggs, milk, fish. On the flip side any thing with from the plant kingdom is cholesterol free, including avocados, coconuts, nuts and even oil.
One of the most powerful ways to lower your bodies cholesterol level is to avoid animal protein. More on this when we address hypercholesteremia or high blood cholesterol. But a key thing to understand is that your body needs cholesterol and it makes it’s own from non-cholesterol sources. A good way to understand this is to see that an elephant, a horse or a cow lives (under normal and healthful situations) on a cholesterol free diet after it is weaned and yet it continues to produce and have cholesterol in it’s body in exactly the amounts it needs. Cholesterol deficiencies are, at best RARE and a result of a genetic malformation.
Fat- Saturated or animal fats seem to the worst culprits although too much fat of any kind can be bad. We already mentioned in the article which showed how thick, clumpy, sluggish blood can cause high blood pressure but a high fat diet can also cause high blood pressure in that you body can use excess fat to produce excess cholesterol.
Protein- Now this is a new one to most people in the medical field. But it isn't just Protein that is the culprit, it is specifically animal protein. We are indebted to the Research done in the China Study for showing us this link. Here is how we connect it. We have known for years that fat in the diet contributed to high cholesterol which in turn increased plaque deposits in our vessels, but the China Study showed that animal protein was even more potent than fat in its ability to raise blood cholesterol. This was shocking news.
The China Study is a powerful book that anyone suffering from high blood pressure must get and read. Click this link to get more information about this research study.
Oral contraceptives- A little known but well established fact is that birth control pills cause a mild increase in blood pressure in many women. Because the women taking birth control pills are usually young and healthy a mild increase is usually not looked for or if it does occur it doesn't increase blood pressure enough to attract attention. Even more concerning is that about 5% of women who start birth control pills get significant high blood pressure. (1988. Woods J.W. Oral contraceptives and hypertension. Hypertension 11 suppl II-11). If you have been started on the pill and your Doctor does not have you come back to check your blood pressure within 2 weeks, then you will need to be proactive and check yourself weekly the first month and then at least once a month to be sure your blood pressure is not running to high as a result of the hormones. If it is, then you will need to educate yourself as to alternative forms of birth-control which will not have this effect and discuss these options with your primary care provider. This is something you should take seriously as physical damage will occur over time from the results of high blood pressure.
Caffeine- A huge industry, caffeine is a highly debated as cause for high blood pressure. Studies results claim a host of contradictory findings based on who is funding the study. Some say it causes high blood pressure, others say it doesn’t make a difference while still others say it lowers blood pressure. We have found that caffeine and the commonly combined chemicals of caffeinated drinks and foods do cause an increase in blood pressure. That said, as serious as it is, it is not the most dangerous effect caffeine has on the body. But that is a different article.
Some feel the effect of caffeine is not significant because the effect it has on blood pressure lasts for only a few hours. But, if you are suffering from a serious disease such as high blood pressure you should consider caffeine and it’s related substances a chemical worthy of avoidance.
One notable experience told by an occupational health nurse was that of a group of men who were truck drivers for a popular caffeinated beverage manufacturer. These men came to her clinic yearly to have their DOT (department of transportation) license renewed. There were certain physical parameters which had to be met in order to operate large trucks commercially. For example, a person had to demonstrate that they could tell the difference between red and green and for obvious reasons! Another requirement was that the blood pressure must be under a certain point, the cut off point was somewhere around 160/90. If it was too high, they could have second check a few days later but if that check was not below the cutoff number medical clearance could not be given. These men were concerned. Their blood pressures were elevated and if it could not be fixed, they were in danger of losing their jobs.
The nurse asked one of the concerned men, “What did you drink today?”
He told her that he had drunk one of the more heavily caffeinated drinks he delivered.
“Don’t drink it again before you get your blood pressure rechecked. Drink only water.” She told him.
The Doctor, sipping his coffee, openly confronted the nurse telling her that her advice was completely unsubstantiated. She wouldn’t back down and insisted that the man should try it. The man, desperate for a solution, and wanting to avoid starting on medications at such a young age decided to try her suggestion.
He returned two days later and passed his blood pressure exam. While the Doctor considered it a fluke, the next year all the drivers passed the first check with good blood pressures and proudly informed the nurse that they had avoid caffeinated drinks for several days before their exam. Unfortunately, they could hardly wait to get the OK so they could go get their fix of caffeine. But how much better for their health would it have been for them to have excluded the chemical that caused a condition that could likely cause damage overtime!
Caffeine has demonstrated several physical effects which likely help it increase blood pressure. One is that it is a stimulant. It suppresses a chemical in the brain that suppresses the release of glutamate. Glutamate is the most abundant excitatory neurotransmitter (message sender) in the brain. This means that caffeine gives you a boost, a feel good sensation. No one who drinks caffeine will deny this effect. It is the reason people will spend over a thousand dollars a year (i.e. $4/day for a mocha or latte X 365 days a year = $1490). It is a "not so cheap", medication people use to “wake them up” in the morning.
If a Doctor told you that you were going to have to spend over one hundred dollars, out of pocket, per month for a prescription drug the insurance wouldn't pay for, you would likely think twice. But Americans do this year in and year out without a second thought.
It just makes sense that before sustaining a 10-15 year caffeine addiction, which can contribute to high blood pressure problems, that you decide to put the same amount of money in a savings account. In 10-15 years you could buy a new car or put a substantial down payment on a good house.
A better known chemical inside our body that increases our blood pressure is renin. If the pressure of the blood flow drops to the kidneys or to other areas of the body, the kidneys release renin. Renin causes vessel constriction (shrinking or making smaller). This causes the blood pressure to increase.
Another thing that causes renin to be released is fear or emotional stress. Our body has what is called the fight or flight response. In other words our body gears up for ACTION in the face of stress. Your eyes dilate, your heart beats faster, your blood pressure increases, your blood shunts to the vital organs such as the heart in order to be able to RUN, RETREAT, ACT. This is one of the beautiful mechanisms built into our body to help us handle the stressors we frequently encounter.
However, it is not as simple as just an excess of renin secretion causing high blood pressure. Researchers have found that renin levels are normal in most patients with high blood pressure, but about 25% actually had lower levels of renin and another 15% had elevated levels of renin. (1999 Merck Manual P. 1631.)
Overall the release of renin is not usually a cause for long-term high blood pressure. That said, Renin is worthy of consideration especially if you are in a lifestyle where you experience a lot of stress. Learning how to control stress can help reduce the amount of time spent in the fight or flight mode and thereby reduce renin levels. Another interesting thing to note is that the renin- angiotension system is commonly targeted by drug medication as a way to reduce blood pressure. In other words the treatment for high blood pressure may depress a different system than the one that is causing the problem.
If you are on blood pressure medication you need to make sure your Doctor has a good grasp of what is causing it. Blunting the ability of your renin system may reduce your blood pressure but the cause of the problem will continue. Furthermore if the cause is not reversed the medication will eventually become ineffective and the hypertension returns even with the drug medication. This is traditionally solved by continuing the ineffective medication and adding a new medication such as a diuretic (such as hydrochlorothiazide or furosemide). Again the cycle is repeated. If however in time if the underlying cause of high blood pressure is not reversed the third medication is added. This is so common that now drug companies are combining multiple blood pressure lowering medications in one pill.
Review why a diuretic could worsen high blood pressure if the cause is thick, sticky blood from inadequate fluid intake.
After reviewing the causes for high blood pressure you are now ready to follow this link to find commonsense, natural cures for 90% of people who experience high blood pressure.