Effective blood pressure treatments

Last week a prospective new patient emailed a question to me about blood pressure treatments that inspired me to write this week’s column. The initial question asked was about my general approach to treating high blood pressure. The follow up question wondered if natural treatments could be as effective as medications and if the natural route was even worth pursuing. I think these questions were great ones to be asked because this is on everyone’s mind who has an issue with high blood pressure and is seeking advice on the non-prescription side of things.

All doctors, MDs or NDs, are trained to think of blood pressure in two very basic ways. First of all, is the blood pressure so high currently that we need to prescribe something immediately or else a consequence might happen? Secondly, is the blood pressure suspicious but we have time to figure things out further? Typically, NDs and MDs should treat the patient with critical high blood pressure very similarly with some type of immediate intervention. However, the big difference is usually with the patients who are not in a critical situation but may have a chronic blood pressure concern.

The most important first step in treating someone with suspected high blood pressure is to ask them to take a few weeks to obtain at least 20-50 individual blood pressure readings at home, work, or the pharmacy. They should get these readings mostly at random times so we can get a sense of where their blood pressure is during their typical day. No matter what the answers are, the readings are much more accurate than 1-5 readings in the office. In fact, at our spring convention in 2014, UBC Pharmacy School instructed the NDs in attendance to quit relying on office readings and focus on several home readings instead.

Once we have established that blood pressure is higher than it really should be the most important next step is to try to figure out why. If we just jump into treatment, whether it’s natural or prescription, we are merely treating the symptom and the patient is likely to depend on that treatment for the long-term or even lifelong. Blood pressure is largely regulated by only a few mechanisms in the body. Therefore, the key to successful treatment is to see if one of those mechanisms is being harmed and blood pressure is rising as a consequence.

An example of this involves the kidney as the kidney plays a major role in regulating blood pressure. If the kidney does not receive enough blood supply it will cause the release of blood pressure-raising hormones called rennin and aldosterone. Certain blood pressure medications like ramipril (Altace) work on lowering these hormones. However, this approach in no way identifies or treats the reason the lack of blood flow to the kidney. It merely, inhibits the signal from the kidney to the cardiovascular system. In my opinion, the better long-term strategy should focus on identifying the underlying reasons for poor circulation to the kidney.

It’s our daily lifestyle habits that we should examine first to see if they are leading to poor circulation to the kidney. These include poor nutrition, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, digestive disorders, food allergies/sensitivities, sluggish liver metabolism, atherosclerosis.

Natural treatments are very successful at treating high blood pressure because they revolve around identifying the cause of high blood pressure and supporting the body’s mechanisms for regulating blood pressure. In next week’s column, I will expand on the other mechanisms in the body for regulating blood pressure.

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About the Author

Dr. Brent Barlow is a Naturopathic Physician practicing at The Kelowna Wellness Clinic in downtown Kelowna. Dr. Barlow has been in practice in Kelowna since graduating from the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine in Vancouver in 2009.

Naturopathic Doctors are trained as primary care physicians, and primarily use natural medicine to treat disease and promote wellness. Dr. Barlow believes strongly in identifying and treating the causes of disease rather than focusing on the treatment of symptoms.

Naturopathic medicine utilizes diet therapy, botanical medicine, nutritional supplementation, acupuncture, spinal manipulation and other physical medicine treatments to treat the causes of disease. Dr. Barlow also trained in the specialized treatments of prolotherapy, neural therapy, intravenous nutrient infusions, and chelation therapy.

Dr. Barlow is in general practice and welcomes all individuals and families. As a naturopathic physician he is trained to treat all health conditions in the manner that best suits the goals of each individual patient. He also has special interests in natural treatments for pain management and digestive health.

To learn more about Dr. Barlow's treatments or to schedule a consultation, visit his website at www.drbrentbarlownd.com or call 250-448-5610.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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