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Sarah's Story of High Blood Pressure

by June Butlin(more info)

listed in heart, originally published in issue 43 - August 1999

A diagnosis of high blood pressure should be taken seriously as it can lead to coronary heart disease, the commonest cause of death, in the western world. The specific consequences of high blood pressure are that it places a strain on the left ventricle of the heart, producing enlargement and a weakening that will eventually lead to failure. It causes arteries to swell and burst (aneurysm), which may result in bleeding, eye damage or a stroke. It also injures the lining of the arteries resulting in atherosclerotic plaque and kidney disease.

High blood pressure readings are usually greater than 140/90. The top reading is the systolic pressure in the arteries when the heart contracts; the bottom reading is the diastolic pressure in the arteries when the heart relaxes. Normal blood pressure readings should be around 120/80 regardless of age. The medical model for healthy blood pressure is a systolic pressure of 100 plus your age, but this does not necessarily guarantee optimum health, and neither does it prevent the risk of angina, heart attack or a stroke. The conventional treatment for high blood pressure is to give hypotensive drugs which either reduce cardiac output and peripheral resistance, or are diuretic in action, to reduce total blood volume. However, they do have side effects of impotence, fatigue, and depression. They can also produce heart problems, as they increase blood glucose and cholesterol levels, and decrease blood levels of potassium and magnesium.

Research shows that hypotensive drugs are not effective in moderate to borderline hypertension, but have some beneficial effects in severe hypertension. Nevertheless, these medications are big business to the drug companies and doctors, and the yearly sales in America are estimated at ten billion dollars.

85% of all cases of high blood pressure can be treated without drugs, but they do require changes in lifestyle, which, as we all know, are difficult to make, and do take time, effort and perseverance. The areas that need to be carefully thought about are exercise, weight, diet, stress, and the detrimental habits of smoking and drinking.

Stress is probably the most significant factor in high blood pressure. Some of the bodily changes that take place in the stress response include the release of the chemicals adrenaline and noradrenaline into the blood stream, which increase heart rate, breathing and blood pressure. Also, blood cholesterol levels rise and the blood clots more easily. When the stress is over the body is fatigued. Continuous stress will lead to symptoms of nervousness, palpitations and anxiety, and eventually to chronic symptoms of high blood pressure and heart disease. This is exactly what happened to one of my clients, named Sarah, whose case study I would like to tell you about.

Sarah was diagnosed by her GP as having symptoms of stress, high blood pressure, elevated levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, and an irregular heart beat. The doctor recommended hypotensive drugs, but Sarah chose to try natural methods first.

Listening to Sarah's story it was easy to understand the reasons behind her ill health. She was 52 years old and had a very happy, stable and secure marriage of 21 years, but was infertile, which was a heartache for her. She was a successful business woman in the fashion industry frequently travelling abroad. She worked twelve-hours each day, socialised at least four times each week, and suffered from insomnia. When travelling she ate erratically, and at home she ate fairly healthily, but succumbed to chocolate biscuits and coffee each afternoon to give herself an energy boost. She exercised on Sundays for twenty minutes, smoked a little, drank a lot and was slightly overweight. When I first met Sarah she felt so ill that she was willing to do anything to regain her health and well being.

Sarah agreed to take a month away from work to focus on her health. The areas that we targeted were relaxation, nutrition, exercise and working towards healthier lifestyle issues.

For relaxation Sarah had an aromatherapy massage weekly using oils to lower the blood pressure such as rosewood, ylang ylang, clary sage and marjoram. I took care not to relax the body too drastically at first to prevent any adverse side effects. I concentrated on the solar plexus, kidneys and the liver, and gave her some internal exercises for these organs in-between her consultations. Sarah meditated twice daily, practised deep breathing exercises, listened to relaxing music and read novels. After three weeks she felt well enough to tackle her diet and exercise programme.

Sarah followed a high fibre, vegetarian plus fish diet, high in vegetables and essential fatty acids, moderate in fruit, low in saturated fats and eliminated sugar and salt. Elevated levels of sodium are associated with high blood pressure, but restriction is not effective unless accompanied by a high potassium intake, which is found in foods such as green leafy vegetables, sunflower seeds, bananas and potatoes. Garlic, onions, broccoli, citrus fruits and celery were eaten daily. Interestingly, a study at the University of Chicago Medical Centre on a compound found in celery, called 3-n- butyl phthalide, showed that it lowered blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Supplements taken were a multi-vitamin and mineral, vitamin C, B complex with high levels of B3 and B6 which raise LDL cholesterol and lower blood pressure respectively, magnesium, and vitamin E to thin the blood.

Sarah started to exercise, restricted her smoking, avoided alcohol during the week, and made every effort to come to terms with her infertility and her obsessiveness towards work.

Her success started at eight weeks when she lost weight, slept soundly, had a steady heart beat, and felt much healthier. At 16 weeks her blood triglyceride and cholesterol levels were in the normal range and her blood pressure reduced from 140/100 to 125/95, and four weeks later reached 120/85.

A great influence on Sarah's healing came through the readings of Krishan Chopra's book Your Life is in Your Hands through which she learned to take responsibility for her own well being.


Understanding Normal and Clinical Nutrition Whitney, Cataldo, Rolfes Wadsworth Publishing Company 1998 ISBN 0-534-53334-5
Enclyclopedia of Natural Nutrition Michael Murray N.D. and Joseph Pizzorno N.D. Prima Publishing 1998 ISBN 0-7615-1157-1
Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease Dr. Dean Ornish Ballantine Books New York 1990 ISBN 0-345-37353-7
The Optimum Nutrition Bible Patrick Holford Judy Piatkus Publishers Ltd. 1997 ISBN 0-7499-17482
Your Life Is In Your Hands Krishan Chopra Element Books Ltd. 1999 ISBN 1-86204-500-3


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About June Butlin

June M Butlin PhD is a trained teacher, nutritionist, kinesiologist, aromatherapist, fitness trainer and sports therapist. She is a writer, health researcher and lecturer and is committed to helping people achieve their optimum level of health and runs a private practice in Wiltshire. June can be contacted on 01225 869 284;

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