Do You Know What the Main Hypertension Causes Are? Part 1
Hypertension is a major contributor to heart disease, but do you know what the main hypertension cause is? Well, by now we pretty much know that the main cause of high blood pressure is an imbalance in our body cells caused by the food we eat.
By learning how this imbalance happens, we can understand how to prevent and cure high blood pressure.
The sodium-potassium electric generator
A cell is an organism that is highly organized. If you disturb that mechanism, things start to go wrong in the body. And that is exactly what happens with hypertension. High blood pressure is a disturbance of the balance found in body cells.
Every living cell has an electrical system, formed by different electric generators. One of them is the sodium-potassium generator. In order for this generator to work properly, the level of sodium in the cells has to be lower than the level of potassium. It should be in a proportion of about 1 to 4, meaning, for each part of sodium there must be at least four parts of potassium.
Our cells get the sodium and potassium they need from food. Nature has provided for this order by making unprocessed food cells to contain more potassium than sodium. When we don’t eat according to nature, we create an imbalance between sodium and potassium. This imbalance results in elevated blood pressure which in turn can cause other problems that we often see in hypertension.
The calcium pump
Another mineral needed to keep the cells electrical system working is calcium. Our muscles need a very low amount of calcium to move and relax. However, when the sodium-potassium ratio is out of balance, calcium levels increase inside the cell. This causes the tiny muscles that surround blood vessels and control blood pressure, to contract more and not to relax. The result: hypertension.
Your blood pressure is created by your heart sending blood through your large arteries. If the blood could just navigate through the arteries to deliver nutrients to every cell in the body, not too much pressure would be created. However, the arteries branch into very tiny blood vessels, the arterioles. Arterioles resist the flow of the blood thus elevating blood pressure.
The signals that tell the muscles in the walls of the arterioles whether or not to constrict or relax are carried mainly by the level of calcium inside the cells. And we know that a high level of calcium inside the cell is due to too much sodium and very little potassium.
An increase of calcium inside the sympathetic nerve cells that regulate blood contraction increases the releasing of hormones such as adrenalin, causing further contraction of the smooth muscle cells of the small arteries.
It is well established by now that much of the brain damage due to strokes is from an increase in calcium inside nerve cells but remember, the excess of calcium inside the cell is due to too much sodium and not enough potassium.
From what I have said, you may think that extra calcium in your diet may be bad for hypertension. Not really. Too little calcium we’ll cause hypertension (too much will have the same effect). This is how it works:
Adequate levels of calcium in the body keep excess calcium from entering the cells. The reason is that the cell membrane has orifices. When there is enough calcium in the body, the calcium puts pressure on the call membrane and prevents leakiness that allows extra calcium to get inside the cell. If there is not enough calcium in the body, the orifices in the membrane are open and calcium gets in.
This is another mineral necessary for the cell battery to work. Magnesium helps the cell maintain a normal level of potassium which helps the cell’s electrical system to function properly. A lack of magnesium will throw off the sodium-potassium balance which in turn, will increase the calcium inside the cell. Again, an excess of calcium inside the cell prevents the muscles of the tiny vessels to relax and the result is hypertension.
As you can see, minerals are needed in the right proportions in order for cells to function and prevent many chronic conditions such as hypertension. If you have read my article on hypertension drugs, you may remember that although these drugs may lower blood pressure, they often fail to prevent strokes or death. This is not surprising since drugs are not designed to keep a balance between all these minerals.
Hypertension can be reversed
Research done with groups of individuals with hypertension had shown high level of sodium and low level of potassium in their blood cells. Although there are other factors that can contribute to hypertension -we’ll go through them within the next few days- as you have seen by now, an imbalance between sodium and potassium is the major cause of hypertension.
How can you reverse this sodium-potassium imbalance in the cells? By eating more fruits and vegetables and less processed foods. Follow a Mediterranean Diet. It is the diet that has kept Mediterraneans free from high blood pressure.
Guys, this is not rocket science. Processed foods have a lot of sodium. If your diet consists of too many packaged foods, your cells we’ll end up with too much sodium and not enough potassium. Read the Nutrition Label to understand how much sodium is too much.
On the other hand, if you eat more fruits and vegetables and less salt, your cells will receive more potassium than sodium, the calcium will do what it is supposed to do and yours cells will not create a situation of high blood pressure.
To your health!
Emilia Klapp, RD, BS