Let’s talk blood pressure. A useful analogy is borrowed from Mark Houston, MD. Just as cars can damage the roads they ride on, blood can harm the arteries through which it flows. Blood moving through at just the right pressure and in exactly the right manner isn’t a problem. Alterations in speed or manner in which blood flows through, say, our coronary arteries, raise the risk of heart disease primarily by damaging the endothelium, or inner cell lining of the arterial walls. These “scratches” on the endothelium left by improper blood flow can lead to plaque buildup and hence atherosclerosis, blood clots and blockages. And high blood pressure.
Now in medical school we all learn that pressure equals force times resistance. Force in this case is the amount of “oomph” created by the heart as it beats, while resistance is the degree of push back blood encounters as it passes through the arteries. Plaque and blockages in the arteries caused by improper blood flow create resistance and can raise blood pressure. So when we ask the question “What raises blood pressure?”, we are really asking: What increases the heart’s pumping action and/ or the arterial resistance?
Well there are a long list of culprits, but the most common within our control are:
- Caffeine- about 60% of the population are genetically slow metabolizers of caffeine leading to a risk of hypertension
- Low blood levels of vitamins C,D and E
- Elevated levels of iron in the blood
- Low blood levels of magnesium
- Low blood levels of Coenzyme Q10, which is responsible for the production of ATP which is necessary for the heart’s pumping action and blood flow in the coronary arteries
- Low blood levels of lycopene
- Smoking- inhalation either actively or passively raises blood pressure
- High levels of stress- stress hormones increase the pumping action of the heart
- Elevated uric acid
- Consumption of trans fatty acids
These are not the only things that can elevate blood pressure but this list gives you an idea of some elements under your control. Remember, nutrition and lifestyle with a decrease in stress are your allies in the fight against most diseases!