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Can You Cure Hypertension?

Jonathan Vellinga, MD

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, affects 1 in 2 adults in the United States, according to the CDC (1). Given that uncontrolled hypertension can lead to heart disease and stroke (the leading causes of death in the US), and that only 1 in 4 adults have their high blood pressure under control, hypertension is a serious issue (1).

While there are many medications to help control high blood pressure that can be life-saving, they may also have side effects (2). And while any medication can be helpful for a time, the goal should always be to address the root causes and work to heal those health issues, instead of taking medication to manage an issue for the rest of your life. This is where functional medicine comes into play. Through taking stock of all current and past health events, medications, lifestyle choices, and genetics, we can work together to not only manage hypertension but truly get it under control - sometimes solely through natural means!

Can You Cure Hypertension?

What is hypertension? How does it develop?

We all have necessary pressure in our blood vessels that helps to circulate blood throughout our bodies, giving all of our cells life-giving nutrients and oxygen. However, this pressure can build and exceed healthy levels. When this pressure is too high for too long, hypertension develops. Long-term excessive force from the blood against artery walls can cause a number of health problems, including coronary artery disease leading to heart attacks, congestive heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, and even blindness (2, 3).

The cause of hypertension depends on the type. Primary hypertension is the most common and does not have any one identified cause. Blood pressure rises gradually over the course of years until it is at unhealthy levels (3). While the exact mechanism underlying primary hypertension is not agreed upon, there are a number of risk factors mentioned below that are thought to contribute to its development.

Secondary hypertension is high blood pressure that is a side effect of another underlying condition (3). It usually develops quickly, and causes higher overall blood pressure than primary hypertension. Conditions that commonly put people at risk of secondary hypertension include obstructive sleep apnea, kidney disease, adrenal gland tumors, congenital blood vessel defects, as well as side effects from many different drugs (birth control, pain relievers, NSAIDs, antidepressants, and illegal drugs like cocaine and amphetamines) (3, 4, 5, 6, 7).

What are the symptoms and risk factors for hypertension? And what can happen if high blood pressure is not controlled?

Surprisingly, most people who experience hypertension do not have any symptoms. Those who do may experience headaches, shortness of breath, chest pains, or even nosebleeds, though these are almost exclusively experienced by those with very severe hypertension (3). This is why it is important to have regular physicals to measure your blood pressure, pulse, and other baseline factors that can alert you to hidden problems.

There are a number of risk factors for hypertension, including (3):

  • Age

  • Race (African heritage is associated with earlier hypertension development and more serious complications)

  • Family history

  • Being overweight or obese

  • Lack of physical activity

  • Tobacco use

  • Too much sodium in your diet and/or

  • Too little potassium in your diet

  • Excessive alcohol use (more than 1 (women) or 2 (men) drinks per day)

  • High levels of stress, including stress-related habits like overeating or drinking

  • Pregnancy

  • Chronic conditions like diabetes, kidney disease, or sleep apnea

  • Certain medications (listed above)

If hypertension is not controlled, it can lead to a number of organ and system failures. Unchecked high blood pressure can result in heart attack, heart failure, stroke, and even atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries) and aneurysms (weak or bulging blood vessels that may rupture) (3). It can also be associated with metabolic syndrome, which is a group of metabolism-related disorders such as higher cholesterol, insulin resistance, and risk of diabetes, and increased waist size (3). Lastly, uncontrolled hypertension can affect your brain. Hypertension can limit blood flow to the brain (due to atherosclerosis), leading to cognitive problems with learning, understanding, and memory, including an increased risk of developing dementia years later (3, 8).

This is why finding means to lower blood pressure and reduce spikes is so important. Hypertension not only increases present health risks but also creates risks for you years down the road.

What are the best methods for reducing blood pressure levels?

At Temecula Center for Integrative Medicine, our primary goal is discovering the root issues that are causing any discomfort or keeping your body from working at its highest capacity. So, the first step in treating high blood pressure is to determine what is causing it. If you have known conditions that are causing secondary hypertension, then we will focus on treating those alongside your hypertension. If not, we will take note of all other complaints or discomfort, ruling out all other possibilities before determining that it is primary hypertension.

Regardless of the type of hypertension, these same lifestyle changes can make a huge difference in blood pressure levels and lead to not only better blood pressure readings and overall health, but also feeling a lot better. The good news is that these same measures are preventative, too! If you employ the lifestyle habits listed below, your risk of hypertension is drastically decreased.

Diet is the first aspect to focus on when reducing blood pressure, including (9, 10):

  • Cutting down on unhealthy fats, sugar, and refined/processed foods (even drinking one less sugary drink per day can reduce blood pressure levels! (11))

  • Replacing those foods with vegetables, fruits, dairy, wild-caught and organic healthy fish, beans, and other foods high in vitamins, calcium, and healthy fats

  • Reducing sodium in your diet to healthy levels, and increasing potassium intake. Focusing on eating leafy greens, dairy, bananas, melons, and nuts can help with this!