Do I Need Blood Pressure Medication?

To detect hypertension, you need to use a blood pressure cuff

What is hypertension?

Rough­ly one out of three adults in the Unit­ed States have hyper­ten­sion (high blood pres­sure). Only half of those with high blood pres­sure have it under con­trol. High blood pres­sure can be a seri­ous prob­lem. It can dam­age your blood ves­sels, par­tic­u­lar­ly in your kid­neys and your brain. Even­tu­al­ly, it can also dam­age the valves in your heart. Preg­nant women are prone to a form of high blood pres­sure called preeclamp­sia, which is dan­ger­ous to the woman and her baby. For these rea­sons, mil­lions of peo­ple are tak­ing med­ica­tions to con­trol their blood pres­sure.

How­ev­er,  med­ica­tion is not nec­es­sar­i­ly the best way to con­trol blood pres­sure. Yes, it can reduce the blood pres­sure. But it does not cure the vas­cu­lar resis­tance that the heart is try­ing to solve by beat­ing so hard. The best way to solve the blood pres­sure prob­lem is to relieve this resis­tance by eat­ing a low-fat veg­an diet.

Blood pres­sure results from the force exert­ed by the heart as it beats. Blood pres­sure is mea­sured in mil­lime­ters of mer­cury (mm Hg) because blood pres­sure was orig­i­nal­ly mea­sured with a tube that con­tained mer­cury, which is a liq­uid met­al. The high­er the pres­sure, the high­er the col­umn of mer­cury in the tube would be. A blood pres­sure mea­sure­ment con­sists of two num­bers: the sys­tolic and dias­tolic pres­sure. The sys­tolic pres­sure rep­re­sents the pres­sure that is exert­ed when the heart con­tracts and push­es the blood into the arter­ies. The dias­tolic pres­sure rep­re­sents the pres­sure when the heart is relax­ing and refill­ing between beats.

Hypertension is a sign of bad circulation

To under­stand blood pres­sure, you need to under­stand that the heart is try­ing to keep enough blood flow­ing through the blood ves­sels to serve the body’s needs. Hyper­ten­sion (high blood pres­sure) is a sign that the heart is strug­gling to over­come high resis­tance in the cir­cu­la­to­ry sys­tem. In oth­er words, the heart is beat­ing real­ly hard to try to push blood through tight, clogged blood ves­sels. You can use med­ica­tion that can reduce your blood pres­sure. How­ev­er, the blood pres­sure med­ica­tion does not solve the prob­lem of tight, clogged blood ves­sels.  For­tu­nate­ly, you can often solve the cir­cu­la­to­ry prob­lems through a change in diet.

Poiseuille’s Law

Blood is a flu­id. Like oth­er flu­ids, it fol­lows the basic rules of physics, includ­ing a rela­tion­ship called Poiseuille’s [pwah-zweez]) Law . Poiseuille’s Law is a math­e­mat­i­cal equa­tion that describes the rela­tion­ship between the rate of flow of a flu­id through a tube and the radius of the tube, the length of the tube, the vis­cos­i­ty (resis­tance to flow) of the liq­uid, and the drop in pres­sure from the begin­ning to the end of the tube. This rela­tion­ship is usu­al­ly shown as fol­lows:

Pres­sure drop = (8 × vis­cos­i­ty × length × flow rate) / (π × radius4)

You can also express Poiseuille’s Law as fol­lows:

Flow rate = (π × radius4 × pres­sure drop)/(8 × vis­cos­i­ty × length)

From this equa­tion, you can make some impor­tant pre­dic­tions:

  • If you dou­ble the pres­sure, but keep every­thing else the same, you would dou­ble the flow. That’s why the heart beats hard­er to increase blood flow.
  • If you dou­ble the vis­cos­i­ty of the blood (i.e., make the blood twice as thick) but keep every­thing else the same, you would cut blood flow in half.
  • If you dou­ble the length of the blood ves­sels (which hap­pens if the per­son gains a lot of weight) but keep every­thing else the same, you would cut the blood flow in half.
  • If you dou­ble the radius of the blood ves­sel, but keep every­thing else the same, you would increase the flow by 2 × 2 × 2 × 2 = 16-fold! Like­wise, if you decreased the radius of the blood ves­sel by half, you would decrease the flow by 93.75%!

How diet causes hypertension

Once you under­stand these rela­tion­ships, you can see why peo­ple get high blood pres­sure. If you eat a fat­ty diet, you will like­ly gain some weight and make your blood a bit thick­er. As a result, your heart will have to beat a lit­tle bit hard­er to keep your blood flow­ing. How­ev­er, a fat­ty diet also clogs your arter­ies. Also, even a sin­gle fat­ty meal can make your blood ves­sels con­strict. As a result, your heart will have to beat a lot hard­er to keep blood flow­ing. The weight gain and the thick­en­ing of the blood will make your blood pres­sure go up a lit­tle, while clogged arter­ies and vaso­con­stric­tion will make it go up a lot!

You can take med­ica­tion to make your blood pres­sure go down, but this med­ica­tion will not solve the under­ly­ing prob­lem of poor cir­cu­la­tion. To solve your cir­cu­la­to­ry prob­lem, you need to keep your blood flu­id and keep your arter­ies clean and flex­i­ble. The best way to do that is to eat a low-fat veg­an diet. This kind of diet works so fast to reduce blood pres­sure that many peo­ple can imme­di­ate­ly stop tak­ing their blood pres­sure med­ica­tion.

Pre-eclampsia is a form of hypertension in late pregnancy

The high blood pres­sure that occurs in late preg­nan­cy (pre-eclamp­sia) is a dif­fer­ent prob­lem. It results from a short­age of pro­tein in the blood plas­ma. This prob­lem occurs if the woman is not get­ting enough to eat or if she is eat­ing way too much fat. Either way, she will end up con­vert­ing too much of her plas­ma pro­teins to sug­ar. As a result, she will not have enough plas­ma pro­tein to hold enough flu­id inside her blood ves­sels to sup­port a healthy preg­nan­cy.

To try to cor­rect this prob­lem of low blood vol­ume, the kid­neys will release renin, which will acti­vate the renin-angiotensin-aldos­terone sys­tem. The angiotensin will make the arter­ies con­strict. The aldos­terone will make the woman retain salt and water. But since she does not have enough pro­tein in her blood to keep that extra flu­id inside her blood ves­sels, it will leak out into her tis­sue. As a result, she will have dan­ger­ous­ly high blood pres­sure as well as swelling.

The sur­pris­ing solu­tion to pre-eclamp­sia is to eat a lot of starch and very lit­tle fat. Women who eat a lot of car­bo­hy­drate will con­vert very lit­tle pro­tein to sug­ar. As a result, they will have nor­mal blood pres­sure as well as sta­ble blood sug­ar lev­els. I explain this prob­lem in Where Do Goril­las Get Their Pro­tein?

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