According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one in three adults in the United States have high blood pressure . Two of every three people over age 60 have it.  That means it is likely that most people over age 60 are on at least one high blood pressure medication. In this first article in a series on natural treatments for hypertension, you’ll learn the mechanics of your vascular system and the problems created by hypertension. Then you can better understand how to reverse the causes of hypertension.
Your Vascular System
Your heart beats more than 100,000 times each day, pushing blood against your arterial walls with each beat. The pressure inside your arteries and arterioles derives from two components:
- The amount of blood being pumped with each heartbeat (heart stroke volume) and, therefore, being pushed throughout the vascular system (blood volume).
- The rigidity or elasticity of the blood vessels. If the vessels are healthy and elastic, then the stretching of the vessels lessens the pressure of each pulsation (systolic pressure) as well as the base pressure between pulsations (diastolic pressure). Fixed or rigid vessels, usually from atherosclerosis or constant muscle contraction from other causes, increases the pressure.
The Problem Of Hypertension
High blood pressure is not only common, it also leads to serious health conditions if it isn’t reversed or controlled. It greatly increases the risk of many diseases, such as brain stroke, vascular dementia, heart disease, eye problems and kidney failure. That’s because, over time, high pressure in the vascular system contributes to the inflammatory process of atherosclerotic plaque deposition, which then narrows, thickens and hardens the artery walls. This, in turn, pushes back against the heart, leading to congestive heart failure. People with uncontrolled high blood pressure develop heart failure six times more frequently than controls. Just about every organ is susceptible to damage from high blood pressure, since blood vessels supply all body organs.
Moreover, the average cost for of medications and doctor appointments for just the simple problem of hypertension is about $1,100 per year per person. There is even a bigger cost than just the money: It leads to the long-term accumulation of unnatural metabolites in your body, medication side effects and possible adverse events.
It seems anyone taking prescription medication to lower blood pressure would want to safely eliminate the need for them in a cost-efficient way. I’ll discuss how to do this in my final article of this series.
Causes Of ‘Essential Hypertension’
Only 10 percent or less of cases of hypertension are either from disease states such as kidney disease, lupus, Cushing’s disease or from certain medication side effects or drug use. The other 90 percent of cases originate in what is termed essential hypertension. This takes place when there is no readily identified cause for it. However, there really are several causes you deserve to know about, but that are not addressed in conventional medicine teachings. These are more than just genetic contributors. I am referring to circumstances you can do something about. The more obvious ones include:
- Smoking: The nicotine in tobacco smoke directly stimulates atherosclerosis formation; decreases oxygen to the heart, causing a reflex increased pressure; and triggers vasospasm (smooth muscle contraction).
- High salt in your diet: If you are salt-sensitive, consuming too much salt increases your blood pressure. You know you are sensitive if you swell up or if your blood pressure increases when you eat salty food. Common table salt is made up of 97.5 percent sodium chloride and about 2.5 percent chemicals from processing. It is not your healthiest salt choice. Sea salts can be only 84 percent sodium chloride and 16 percent mineral electrolytes, including potassium, magnesium, calcium and other nutrients. Therefore, it can be used differently by your body. Reportedly, natural sea salts don’t cause swelling like sodium chloride does.
- Sedentary lifestyle: Not exercising regularly contributes to obesity and inflammatory mediators that trigger high blood pressure. The heart weakens, and the blood vessels become less flexible and resilient.
- Alcohol consumption: Not only heavy consumption, but also moderate consumption over time increases blood pressure, according to studies.  
Now let’s look at more of the causes behind essential hypertension that don’t get talked much about in the textbooks or online.
The first category is inflammation.
When there is chronic low-grade inflammation affecting the blood vessel walls to any degree, the processes of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) is initiated or accelerated. Additionally, chronic low-grade inflammation releases inflammatory chemicals that tighten (constrict) your vessel wall’s smooth muscle.
Let’s consider all these as examples of potential contributors:
- Sleep deprivation or poor-quality sleep. 
- Obesity, which raises blood volume, increases insulin production (which is inflammatory), and increases inflammatory cytokines. 
- Autoimmune inflammation, which can be triggered by poor intestinal health from a leaky gut, certain food allergies and even America’s hybridized wheat products.  The process behind autoimmune inflammation is described in more detail in my article about allergies and chronic diseases.
- Antibiotics, which promote overgrowth of resistant bacteria, yeast and parasites.
- Anti-inflammatory medications.
- Chemical food dyes and preservatives.
- Digestive enzyme deficiency and low stomach acid.
- Foods that are high in refined sugars can be inflammatory.
- Cow milk protein (dairy), which can be antigenic.
- Chronic low-grade infections.
The lifestyle contributors of inflammation are real, but often overlooked, causes of essential hypertension. Hypertension can be viewed as a probable sign that something in your body is out of balance and that inflammation is brewing somewhere.
But there is still another other category of causes for essential hypertension that I’d like to share with you in my next article: your body’s levels of the functioning hormones thyroid, aldosterone and cortisol.
To feeling good for health,
Michael Cutler, M.D.
Easy Health Options
 CDC. Vital signs: prevalence, treatment, and control of hypertension—United States, 1999-2002 and 2005-2008. MMWR. 2011;60(4):103-8.
 NIH article online at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hbp/printall-index.html
 Briasoulis A, Agarwal V, Messerli FH. Alcohol consumption and the risk of hypertension in men and women: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of clinical hypertension (Greenwich, Conn.).J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich). 2012 Nov;14(11):792-8
 Sesso HD, Cook NR, Buring JE,Manson JE, Gaziano JM. Alcohol consumption and the risk of hypertension in women and men. Hypertension. 2008 Apr;51(4):1080-7.
 Nanchahal K, Ashton WD, Wood DA. Alcohol consumption, metabolic cardiovascular risk factors and hypertension in women. Int J Epidemiol. 2000 Feb;29(1):57-64.
 Alanna Morris, Dorothy Coverson, et al. Sleep Quality and Duration are associated with Higher Levels of Inflammatory Biomarkers: the META-Health Study. Circulation, 23 November 2010; 122: Abstract: A17806. Found online at: http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/meeting_abstract/122/21_MeetingAbstracts/A17806
 Neil M Johannsen, Elisa L. Priest, et al. Association of White Blood Cell Subfraction Concentration with Fitness and Fatness. BJSM Published Online First: 17 October 2008. Found online at: http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2008/10/17/bjsm.2008.050682.abstract
 Cutler M. Gluten Unveiled. Printed online by Easy Health Options Aug 12, 2013 at: http://easyhealthoptions.com/alternative-medicine/gluten-unveiled/