This week will explore how bodily inflammation and other factors play a role in High Blood Pressure and dive into a common treatment: statins.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is defined as blood pressure of 140/90 or greater. 1 in 3 adults (80 million people) over the age of 20 have high blood pressure. High blood pressure is known as a silent killer, because people often feel fine and don’t know their blood pressure is elevated1.
High blood pressure is caused by a variety of things. It can be caused by obesity, kidney problems, inflammation, anxiety, and excess alcohol intake2. Basically, anything that causes the Fight or Flight stress response to keep rearing its ugly head, could cause high blood pressure.
In certain situations, it is normal for our blood pressure to rise. Think about it from an evolutionary perspective: If you had to fight a bear to stay alive, or run away from stampede of buffalo, you would want your blood pressure to increase so that your brain, heart, lungs, and muscles could get enough oxygen and fuel to power you to survive. The same thing happens when you exercise. Your blood pressure goes up to meet the physical demands of the body. The problems occur when your blood pressure stays up too high for too often. This can lead to damage within the blood vessels and eventually cause heart attacks and strokes.
Salt or Sugar?
Salt has received a bad rap for its link with high blood pressure. This is due to the physiological mechanism of how your body increases your blood pressure naturally. Your kidneys sense the blood pressure as they do their job filtering the blood. If it is too low, they start a cascade of events that uses multiple hormones to increase your blood pressure by, among other things, retaining salt and getting rid of potassium.
Recent studies show that reducing salt intake does not reduce the incidence of stroke and heart attack death. They also show that having low salt levels actually increases the chance of death for people with heart failure. Salt is not just made up of sodium, but also chloride. Researchers have started to look at low chloride levels as a possible cause of death in heart disease. Also being considered, is the ratio between sodium and potassium3,4.
As dietary recommendations of eating less fat and decreasing salt intake have been made by the government, heart disease rates have continued to increase. This is because the true culprit is sugar. Increased sugar intake leads to obesity, diabetes, and many other diseases caused by inflammation. This inflammation damages the blood vessel walls and causes cholesterol to be laid down. This has led cholesterol to be demonized as the cause of stroke and heart attacks.
Cholesterol lays down on the blood vessels after inflammation damages the heart. Historically, people have looked at ways to stop cholesterol build up, because it can plug our blood vessels, not letting blood through to the brain, heart, and other tissues. However, cholesterol is acting as a scab to help reinforce our blood vessels as they heal from the damage caused by inflammation. Rather than treating cholesterol, we need to focus on the cause and decrease the inflammation by changing our diets.
This brings us to statins. Statins are a pharmaceutical drug prescribed to decrease our cholesterol levels. However, cholesterol is not the bad guy, and is actually very important to our bodies. So important that every cell in our bodies make cholesterol. However, some people have cholesterol build-up in their blood vessels SO great that they do need some lifesaving intervention. This is the point of medicine: to get people out of crisis, so that lifestyle changes can be made. If you are not yet to that crisis point, statins likely aren’t needed, because you can actually lower your cholesterol through diet and exercise. These changes decrease inflammation and let the blood vessels heal. As the vessels heal, cholesterol will be lowered by the body. But, the change that is necessary is difficult, and in our culture, people often opt for the easy way out. Yet, statins have not been shown to decrease the rates of strokes and heart attacks. They have even been shown increase your risk of strokes. This is on top of the other side effects of statins; muscle aches and pains, liver damage, kidney damage, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.
Chiropractic and Blood Pressure
Studies have shown that chiropractic adjustments can help lower blood pressure. Subjects received multiple weeks of upper cervical adjustments and effects were noted eight weeks after the procedures stopped. One study leader and director of the University of Chicago Hypertension Center, George Bakris, MD said, “This procedure has the effect of not one, but two blood-pressure medications given in combination.” “And it seems to be adverse-event free. We saw no side effects and no problems.” Blood pressure dropped 17 points on average during the study5.
Chiropractic is not designed to treat diseases. The whole philosophy of chiropractic is based on the simple fact that your body is designed to heal. If you remove stress from the body and allow it to function the way it is designed to, it will heal itself. This is what was observed in these studies. A subluxation of the Atlas vertebra, C1, or the top vertebra in your neck, was corrected, and then the body began to heal. We are wonderfully made, and if we address the stress in our lives, we can live more Fully Alive!
3 DiNicolantonio James J., Chatterjee Subhankar, O’Keefe James H., Dietary Salt restriction in Heart Failure: Where is the Evidence?, Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases (2015), doi: 10.1016/j.pcad.2015.12.002