As a holistic sleep coach and pharmacist, I understand the importance of a healthy sleep routine, and how it affects our overall health. One aspect of our health that is often overlooked is blood pressure. In this article, we’ll dive into the topic of high blood pressure and how it affects our sleep and well-being.
*DISCLAIMER: Hey guys! As a way to make this information public and free to all of my viewers. At no extra cost to you, I accept commissions on the links in my article to help fund the time it takes for me to research, write, and create impactful and useful articles for your knowledge.
“I do my best to present the best and most accurate information here, but here’s what I am – a pharmacist and holistic sleep coach. I’m not your doctor, so use your best judgement when implementing my information.”
What is High Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is a measure of the force that blood exerts against the walls of your arteries. It’s important to maintain a healthy blood pressure, as it is essential for delivering oxygen and nutrients to the organs in your body.
Your doctor will read two numbers when measuring your blood pressure: the systolic blood pressure (top number) and the diastolic blood pressure (bottom number). The systolic blood pressure measures the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart contracts and pumps blood to your organs. The diastolic pressure measures the pressure on the artery wall when your heart is relaxing and filling up with blood.
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What Causes High Blood Pressure?
There are many factors that contribute to high blood pressure, including genetics, stress, and unhealthy lifestyle habits. When the blood vessels become smaller or your heart beats faster, it can cause an increase in blood pressure, which is called hypertension or high blood pressure.
Chronic high blood pressure can lead to serious health problems, such as kidney disease, heart attack, stroke.
Why is high blood pressure called “the silent killer?
As a pharmacist, it’s important to understand why high blood pressure is commonly referred to as “the silent killer”. It’s because this condition can often go undetected and symptomless, leading to long-term damage to vital organs, such as the heart, kidneys, and brain. As a result, routine blood pressure monitoring is crucial to identifying and managing high blood pressure before it causes irreversible harm.
You may not feel the effects of high blood pressure until you experience a serious event such as a heart attack or stroke, or develop complications like erectile dysfunction. Therefore, your pharmacists should educate you about the importance of regular blood pressure checks and medication adherence to prevent serious health consequences.
Blood pressure according to heart.org is shown below.
What about Pulse or Heart Rate?
It’s important to understand the relationship between heart rate and blood pressure, and how it relates to the function of our vital organs. While often used interchangeably, pulse and heart rate are technically not the same thing. The pulse is the rhythmic expansion and contraction of the arteries as they receive the blood pumped by the heart. A healthy heart rate is essential for maintaining good blood flow and oxygenation to the brain and other organs.
In cases of high blood pressure, medications such as beta blockers can be prescribed to lower blood pressure by slowing down the heart rate. It’s important to note that a normal heart rate falls between 60 to 100 beats per minute, and an elevated heart rate over 70 may indicate chronic stimulation of the “stress response”.
What your doctor is not telling you about blood pressure?
Have you ever met someone on more than 1 blood pressure medication? I knew patients that were on an average of 4 to 5 different medication just to lower their blood pressure. Most blood pressure medications target 2 things, the relaxation of the smooth muscle in the blood vessels and lowering the heart rate.
Yet, there is a thin layer of cells surrounding every blood vessel in the body. This layer has an important role, and it is called the vascular endothelium and it works together with your blood vessels to maintain optimal blood flow. When the vascular endothelium is healthy it:
- Reduces the platelets from sticking together in blood vessels
- Prevents cells from growing on injured areas in your blood vessel
- Stops sticky immune cells from attaching and growing on your blood vessel
- Will help control blood pressure by creating Nitric Oxide (NO)
When the vascular endothelium is NOT healthy:
- Creates a blood vessel that is ready to create plaque buildup.
- It reduces the ability of your blood vessel to relax and lower blood pressure
- Your risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke is increased (Gimbron MA)
- Creates a susceptibility to atherosclerotic initiation
- Diminished arterial compliance (when the arteries don’t want to relax or constrict)
- Vulnerability to cardiovascular events (Vanhoutte PM)
Why Nitric Oxide is so important
Nitric oxide (NO) is a gas that is produced by the cells that line the walls of blood vessels (vascular endothelium). It is beneficial for the body in several ways, including improving blood flow and reducing the risk of clots and build-up of immune cells in blood vessels.
To increase nitric oxide levels, there are several things you can do:
Ways to increase Nitric Oxide
- Increase the amount of Arginine or you can STOP Arginase from stealing Arginine. How do we do that?
- Reduce systemic inflammation
- Balance out your blood sugar by preventing blood sugar spikes
- Lowering angiotensin II levels, which can be done with medication.
- Your body will naturally recycle L-Citrulline back to Arginine, you just need to watch out for Arginase! You can shut it off by doing the steps in #1.
- Elevated ADMA is associated with increased risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. So, what do we do to reduce ADMA? Well, we can’t completely eliminate ADMA, but we can increase Arginine : ADMA ratio.
- Turn on the Nrf2 genes (we’ll talk about this below).
- Antioxidants like resveratrol have shown to slow down ADMA.
- You can increase the consumption of Arginine to improve the arginine : ADMA ratio.
- Regulating your blood sugar can shut off (DDAH) enzymes that increase ADMA
- Increase the cofactor of BH4. “What the heck is BH4?” It’s hard to supplement because most BH4 supplements are not so stable, and I don’t trust them yet. Here are some ways to increase BH4.
- Reduce NOX-1 enzymes by allowing NADPH to be increased by exercising and using nutraceuticals
How the body increases Nitric Oxide
Based on the picture above, there are several ways we can increase NO or deplete it. With something like NO, you want to produce it naturally. Producing NO can help reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and artery plague build up.
How to we switch on the genes that produce NO?
You read that correct! Our genes are the genetic makeup that makes us who we are and there are about 4% of those genes that we have full control of. That means we can turn these on or shut them off by what we eat, breath, smell, and feel.
There are 2 different genes in our body that can produce NO. The nerdy terms are Nrf2 and KLF2, but what they can do is activate healing properties all throughout your body by what you eat and do throughout the day. Let’s look at a popular gene in the functional medicine community, Nrf2.
What is Nrf2 and how can we increase it?
This gene is so cool because there are supplements and foods we can eat that will turn this gene on. Also, by increasing our blood flow with cardio exercise, we can increase positive stress on the blood vessel which will trigger more NO to be produce. Along with producing more NO, this gene also ramps up the production of antioxidants. Remember, antioxidants help to prevent the rust formation in your body so you don’t age as fast. Here are a few examples of foods that trigger the Nrf2 gene:
- Phytonutrients like sulforaphane (broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage, or Bok choy), resveratrol (organic grapes, red wine and to lesser extent peanuts, blueberries, and cranberries), curcuminoids (Curry powder or turmeric)
- Antioxidants like lipoid acid (spinach, broccoli, yams, potatoes, tomatoes, brussels sprouts, carrots, and beets) and N-acetylcysteine (body will convert when you eat meat, fish, chicken or turkey) (Done AJ)
How can I increase KLF2?
KLF2 once activated helps the Nrf2 gene with its antioxidant ability. Also, it helps to produce more NO from the picture above in multiple ways. Also, this cool gene helps to calm down the key inflammatory gene (NK-xB) and the high blood pressure producing enzyme (ACE). So how do we increase the ability to turn on KLF2:
- Increase blood flow with exercise like strength training or cardio.
- Eat flavonoids (tea, berries, red wine, apples, and legumes)
- Tannic Acid (legume seeds, cereals, cacao, peas, leafy and green vegetables, coffee, tea, and nuts)
- Statin drugs (It’s important to note that some medicine can cause nutrient depletion)
Now that we talked about what turns these genes on you our body. What we do know is that there are conditions that turn these genes off. It has been shown that these genes turn off when the body is exposed to low-grade systemic inflammation and when your blood sugar goes to high putting you in a hyperglycemic state. In addition, the exact opposite of exercise, a sedentary lifestyle can shut off these important antioxidants and NO producing genes. So, make sure to not stay sedentary for longer than 2 hours in a day and do your best to move and take walking breaks throughout the day.
What about blood pressure medication?
As a pharmacist, it’s important to understand the management of uncontrolled and high blood pressure through medication. If your doctor has prescribed blood pressure medication due to a lack of attention to a more positive lifestye, it’s crucial to take it as prescribed until you start noticing signs of improvement. The recovery process takes time, as the body needs to eliminate toxins, reduce inflammation, and replenish nutrients. It’s also essential for the hormone system to correct itself, which can take months.
What is Low Blood Pressure
If you experience low blood pressure, which is classified as a systolic of 90 or a diastolic of 60 mm Hg, it’s important to communicate with your doctor. They may recommend splitting your medication in half and monitoring your blood pressure at least twice a day. The key is to be on the lowest possible dose, as some medications have beneficial properties, such as kidney or heart protection. Still, it’s crucial to minimize side effects and interactions with other medications. As a pharmacist, I recommend using an automated blood pressure cuff to monitor your blood pressure at home, which can be purchased for a reasonable price on platforms like Amazon.
How to take Proper Blood Pressure with an automated blood pressure cuff?
- Avoid smoking, exercising, coffee, or alcohol for at least 30 minutes.
- Try to find a table to rest your LEFT arm on for at least 5 minutes. You want your arm around chest level.
- Best to take your blood pressure before morning medication AND before dinner. Try to take your blood pressure twice at least 1 to 2 minutes a part. Write these results down
- Make sure the cuff size fits within the lines of the blood pressure cuff. Amazon does sell larger blood pressure cuffs.
- Try NOT to tighten the blood pressure cuff over your clothes. If you are wearing a long sleeve shirt, you want to make sure that you don’t pull up your sleeve all the way which can cut the blood supply off. It’s best to take your arm out of your shirt.
- Keep your feet flat and your body as relaxed as possible.
- Push the button on the machine, relax and breath normally until it finishes.
How fixing your blood pressure helps sleep
By holistically treating your blood pressure, you are creating an environment where your body will start to feel safe. When your body undergoes a stress response from too much stimulation or physical stressors, the blood pressure and heart rate can rise. This is one of many signs that your body is battling something.
As you start to make these changes and implement a healthier lifestyle, you may start to notice that you don’t need to use as much medication. This may allow your liver to function better and detox the hormones and chemicals you are exposed to on a regular basis. Some experts in chines medicine say that this could help your body sleep better through the night as well.
If you start to initiate some of the natural therapies or supplements. You may start to notice your body replenishing much needed nutrients to function. This will allow your body to work more efficient. This will allow your body to feel more at ease, and you may start to notice sleeping longer through the night or falling asleep faster.
Letting go of excess weight and reducing physical stress are combinations to increase longevity and improve your quality of life. These are winning combinations for better sleep quality too. After you start to implement some or all of these techniques, check out my blog on strengthening your circadian rhythm to get actionable steps on how to sleep and get your body in sync with your circadian schedule.
What if you need help?
As we know, poor sleep or sleep deprivation can affect our health drastically. From sleep apnea patients suffering from resistant high blood presure to insomniacs with a dysregulated circadian rhythm. Sleep issues can affect blood pressure, insulin resistance, mental health issues, gut issues, and so much more. If your sleep isn’t right, then you should at the very least start to implement new habits to strengthen your circadian rhythm in order to optimize health.
At times, you need someone to help identify the issues, that is why my clients call me a sleep consultant. I have a background as a pharmacist and have been working with clients to fix their sleep without dangerous sleep medications.
Once you have a plan, it is important to start implementing the plan right way. That is where you will need a coach like me. We find the easiest wins up front and slowly build on those wins as we get to the more difficult things. I provide my clients with 1:1 text support in order to trouble shoot tasks so we can get you to your goal faster.
I hope this was helpful!
To healthy sleep and blood pressure,
Dr. Zeke Medina
Holistic Sleep Coach and Pharmacist