High blood pressure (HBP) is a common condition and needs to be treated and managed. It is one of those conditions often referred to as the silent killer.

High blood pressure (HBP) or hypertension means high pressure (tension) in the arteries. Arteries are vessels that carry blood from the pumping heart to all the tissues and organs of the body. HBP does not always mean excessive emotional tension, although emotional tension and stress can temporarily increase blood pressure.

Measuring Blood Pressure:

When measuring blood pressure (BP), the top number of the reading is the systolic blood pressure and it corresponds to the highest pressure in the arteries as the heart contracts when pumping blood into the arteries. The bottom number, the diastolic pressure, represents the lowest pressure in the arteries as the heart relaxes after it has contracted. It was previously thought that rises in diastolic blood pressure were a more important risk factor than systolic elevations, but it is now known that in people 50 years or older systolic hypertension represents as greater risk. BP can rise gradually with age.

Hypertension and Strokes:

Persistent hypertension is one of the risk factors for strokes, which can cause brain damage and heart attacks. It also increases the risk of heart failure, of developing heart (cardiac) disease, the hardening of the arteries, arterial aneurysm, atherosclerosis or arteriosclerosis, eye damage and is a leading cause of chronic renal failure. These complications of hypertension are often referred to as end-organ damage because damage to these organs is the end result of chronic (long duration) high blood pressure. For that reason, the diagnosis of HBP is important so efforts can be made to normalize blood pressure (BP) and prevent complications. Even moderate elevation of arterial blood pressure can lead to shortened life expectancy. Cardio vascular disease (CVD) risks double for each increment of 20/10 points.

Common Causes

Hypertension is caused by an interaction of environmental, nutritional and genetic factors where endothelial (cells lining the blood vessels) and vascular smooth muscle cells dysfunction. Much of the latest research related to hypertension refers to the fact that cellular oxidative stress can also initiate and propagate hypertension and that oxidative stress is an essential component and influence on vascular biology. It is wise to increase oxidative stress defences.


Hypertension is one of those conditions which often goes totally unnoticed unless regular blood pressure testing is carried out.  Mild to moderate essential hypertension is greatly asymptomatic and some folk even with really high BP have no symptoms at all although it is often only when the hypertension has been present for an extended period without intervention that it is associated with symptoms such as:

  • Headaches
  • Somnolence
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nose bleeds
  • Visual disturbances – retinas are affected with narrowing of arterial diameter to less than 50% of venous diameter.


The Holistic Approach:

To achieve target blood pressure levels, there needs to be a combination of lifestyle changes, nutraceuticals and nutrition. Then, when necessary, pharmacologic treatment should be added. Aiming for ideal body weight, exercising, reducing stress levels, restricting caffeine and alcohol intake are all essential and contribute to a well-rounded approach.

Playing Russian Roulette and believing that hypertension is not an issue and should not be monitored is foolhardy. The treatment of hypertension is complex and must be treated in a disciplined scientific manner.  While using ‘alternative’ therapies blood pressure must be monitored regularly and many times these therapies must be combined with conventional allopathic pharmacology.  Medication must not be stopped until blood pressure levels are well within normal limits and even then still monitored. The efficacy of different nutraceuticals can work differently for different individuals.  For many who opt for vitamin and mineral supplementation, it can take 2 weeks or so before their effects will be properly noticed. Once beneficial results are stable dosages could be reduced after time, as long as efficacy is maintained and low blood pressure is still achieved.

It cannot be stressed enough that blood pressure needs to be monitored regularly, especially as we get older. Where does your blood pressure reading sit at?

ClassificationSystolic pressureDiastolic pressure
Stage 1140–15990–99
Stage 2=160=100
Isolated systolic hypertension=140<90
Source: American Heart Association (2003).  

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