Fortunately, there exist powerful diet and lifestyle treatment
options that safely and effectively reduce high blood pressure.
But donít assume that your doctor will tell you about them because
many doctors are simply unaware of the facts. Before exploring how
to safely treat this condition, letís look at what high blood pressure
is, and seek to understand why it is our nationís number one public
health concern. In doing so, it will become clear why medical management
is generally so ineffective, and why a safer, more effective approach
one which takes advantage of the human bodyís built-in healing mechanisms
is often the best choice.
What is blood pressure?
Although high blood pressure does not cause any pain, and cannot
be detected without a special device, it is clearly a serious health
problem worthy of your rapt attention. But what is "blood pressure,"
and what can cause it to become "high"?
If you have ever been in a hot tub with the "jets" on,
you have observed a circulating system. When the pump is "on,"
the water circulates from the hot tub, through pipes, into a pump,
and then back to the hot tub. In this way, the water can be put
through a filter to remove impurities, and be re-utilized, again
and again. A hot tub with its pump "on" is a simple circulatory
system. When the pump is "off," the water stops circulating
and stays wherever it is in the system.
Your circulatory system is very much like the hot tubís. Your blood
is like the water. Your heart is like the pump, and your blood vessels
are like the pipes. Your heart pumps your blood through the circulatory
system in order to feed oxygen and nutrients to cells throughout
your body, and to remove waste products. By circulating through
the system, your blood is filtered, and re-utilized, again and again.
In a hot tub, as the water comes through the pipes it has a degree
of force. This force is caused by the action of the pump, which
puts energy into the circulating system and forces the water through
the pipes. When the pump is off, there still may be water in the
pipes, but there is no force. The degree of force in the system
when the pump is on can be gauged in a number of ways, such as by
putting your hand in front of a "jet." Another way would
be to have a device to measure the amount of force that the water
exerts against the walls of the pipes as it circulates. Such a device
might yield a numerical measurement of the force, or pressure, of
the water within the pipes.
Similarly, your blood exerts a force against the walls of your
blood vessels as it circulates through your body. The degree of
this force is called your "blood pressure," and it can
be measured with a blood pressure monitoring device. Unlike the
water pressure in the hot tub, however, human blood pressure is
highly variable. In the hot tub, the water ejected by the jets comes
in a steady, pressurized stream. But in the human circulatory system,
blood pressure varies dramatically from one moment to the next.
Unlike the smooth action of the hot tub pump, the human heart expands
and contracts mightily each second or so, causing your blood pressure
to be comparatively high one moment, and comparatively low in the
next. That is why we need two measurements when checking your blood
pressure one at the moment when the pressure is highest (your systolic
blood pressure), and one a moment later, when the pressure is lowest
(your diastolic blood pressure).
Your systolic blood pressure is always higher than your diastolic
blood pressure, and is always the "top" number when your
pressure is reported. If your doctor tells you that your blood pressure
is "120 over 80," this means that your systolic blood
pressure was measured at "120," and your diastolic was
at "80." Both your systolic and diastolic blood pressure
measurements are important because they indicate how well your circulatory
system is working. If either of these measurements is unusually
high, this warrants your serious attention. Because, as previously
mentioned, elevated blood pressure may be not only a sign of cardiovascular
disease, it is a cause of disease, as well.
How high is "high"?
There are really no cut-and-dried definitions for high blood pressure.
Researchers have used several different criteria to determine at
what level a personís blood pressure should be considered "high."
One very useful criterion is the concept that blood pressure is
"high" when it reaches a level that corresponds to significantly
elevated risk for heart attack, stroke, or congestive heart failure.
One misguided criterion is the idea that blood pressure is "high"
only when it reaches a level that can be effectively assisted by
Over the years, these and other criteria have been bandied about,
with the final result being a set of definitions that are not based
upon any specific criteria, but are still useful for communication
purposes. Your blood pressure is said to be "high" when
either your systolic blood pressure is 140 or above, or your diastolic
blood pressure is 90 or above, or both. So if your blood pressure
is found to be 142/88 (systolic = 142, diastolic = 88), you are
diagnosed as having high blood pressure, according to current definitions.
The same would be true if your blood pressure was found to be 135/92,
or 152/95. In each case, either the systolic is high, or the diastolic
is high, or both. Any of these findings results in a diagnosis of
high blood pressure.
Most people who are diagnosed with high blood pressure have what
is referred to as "mild" high blood pressure. This means
that their systolic blood pressure is between 140-159, and/or their
diastolic blood pressure is between 90-99. Only when blood pressures
are above 160/100 is a patient considered to have "moderate"
blood pressure, and, at even higher levels, "severe."
These definitions can be quite misleading, and are undoubtedly leading
to many entirely preventable tragedies.
What is considered "normal" is often pathological. For
example, if a person has blood pressure of 136/88 it is considered
"normal," or perhaps "high normal," based on
the fact that it is below the arbitrary 140/90 numbers. But such
an individual has five times the risk of stroke of a person with
blood pressure at 110/70! In fact, one-third of the people who die
of heart attacks, strokes, and congestive heart failure have blood
pressures that are below 140/90. The current definitions of "normal"
or "high normal" may give patients a false sense of security
that may very well cost them their lives.
According to current classification, even a person whose blood
pressure has risen to 156/98 is considered to have only "mild"
high blood pressure. Yet, this level is much more dangerous than
even 136/88. Sadly, the majority of people who die of heart attacks,
strokes, and congestive heart failure have blood pressure described
as either "normal" or "mildly high."
Problems with drugs
The current convention of diagnosing blood pressure as "high"
beginning at 140/90 has created another set of problems. Most doctors
have been taught that once a diagnosis of "high blood pressure"
has been made, blood pressure medication is the treatment of choice.
As a result, many physicians believe that the current definition
of "high" blood pressure is also the same level of blood
pressure at which drug treatments are worthwhile. Unfortunately,
this is not the case.
In multiple studies conducted by world leaders in high blood pressure
research, drug treatments have been found to be surprisingly ineffective.
In fact, there is no clear evidence that drug therapy reduces the
risk of death in patients with "mild" high blood pressure
which is the majority of diagnosed patients! In summarizing the
results of one of the largest clinical trials ever conducted performed
by the prestigious British Medical Research Council it was reported
that for mildly hypertensive patients, "...Active (drug) treatment
had no evident effect on the overall cause of mortality...."
In a subsequent review of the entire scientific literature, the
British Medical Journal concluded that there is "no appreciable
benefit to an individual patient from treating (with drugs) a diastolic
pressure of less than 100...." What these scientists found
was that while drug treatments for mild hypertension may be effective
at lowering blood pressure, they were not effective in reducing
overall mortality. Put more bluntly, hypertension patients in these
studies died at about the same rate whether they took medication
or not. These findings reaffirm an important health principle treating
the symptoms of disease is not the same thing as causing health.
It also would appear that the dangerous "side effects"
of high blood pressure drugs are sufficiently substantial to obliterate
any positive effects of reducing mild high blood pressure in this
artificial manner. In fact, the side effects of medications are
sufficiently toxic that leading medical authorities suggest that
medications only become worth the risks when blood pressure becomes
"moderately to severely elevated" (160/100 or above).
Typical side effects of high blood pressure medications range from
mildly unpleasant to lethal. These include fatigue, gastric irritation,
nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, headache, impotence, depression,
and congestive heart failure.
Donít assume that your doctor is aware of these facts. If you are
diagnosed with mild high blood pressure, you likely will be prescribed
medication, instructed that it is helpful, and told that you must
take it for the rest of your life. But before accepting this potentially
dangerous treatment, it may be to your advantage to seek answers
to the following questions: "What caused my high blood pressure?"
and "Can I remove those causes and reverse this condition?"
Causes of high blood pressure
Think back for a moment to the circulatory system in a hot tub.
When the system is working as designed, there is a certain level
of water pressure in the system. However, we could arrange things
that would increase this level of pressure. One way would be to
partially clog the pipes. In this way, the pressure in the whole
system would rise, just as the water pressure in your garden hose
rises when you put your finger over the spout and impede the flow.
In the human circulatory system, it also is possible to "clog
the pipes." By consuming a diet that is excessive in fats,
cholesterol, and animal proteins, it is possible to develop atherosclerosis
a condition of fatty deposits in the cardiovascular system. Over
time, people can build up such significant deposits that their "pipes"
are clogged up, to some degree. This is one of the main causes of
high blood pressure, and is one reason why high blood pressure tends
to become more prevalent as people age. But this condition is not
inevitable. More encouraging still is the finding, by Dr. Dean Ornish
and others, that this condition is reversible with dietary and lifestyle
modifications, the first step of which is to adopt a plant-based
diet derived from whole, natural foods.
While "clogging the pipes" is a major cause of high blood
pressure, there are other causes, as well. A second major factor
is that excessive dietary salt causes there to be too much fluid
in the circulatory system. Consider once again the analogy of the
garden hose. If you turn on the water "harder," there
is more pressure in the hose. Excessive salt in the diet can result
in excessive fluid volume in the blood, which results in elevating
blood pressure. This cause, too, is reversible, as a plant-based
diet of whole, natural foods devoid of added salt is naturally low
in sodium chloride.
We can see that two major causes of high blood pressure atherosclerosis
and excessive fluid in the circulatory system are reversible, given
dietary modifications. Such modifications directly address the causes
of high blood pressure, and thus might be expected to be quite effective.
The curious reader might wish to know just how effective such dietary
modifications are, as compared to the drug treatments offered by
most doctors. A summary of results from a variety of studies on
diet and lifestyle modifications, as compared with drug treatment,
appears in Figure 1.
Some impressive results
As you can see in Figure 1, dietary and lifestyle modifications
are very impressive as compared with drug treatment. In a study
conducted by Dr. John McDougall and his colleagues, a program utilizing
a moderately low-sodium, vegetarian diet with moderate exercise
resulted in an average blood pressure reduction of 17/13 in just
eleven days! This is particularly striking when we compare these
results with medications, which have been found to reduce blood
pressure only about 12/6 points, on average. This should be encouraging
for those who have been told that they must take blood pressure
medication for the rest of their lives.
It is notable that relaxation and meditation, though useful for
many purposes, have not been found to impact high blood pressure.
Many people find this surprising, possibly since high blood pressure
also is known as "hypertension." Because of this potentially
misleading term, many people have assumed that high levels of stress
or "tension" is a major cause of "hypertension,"
or high blood pressure. This is not the case. High blood pressure
is an essentially mechanical, and not psychological, problem. The
causes are most often some combination of clogged "pipes"
and excessive salt in the diet. Lifestyle changes, such as appropriate
diet and exercise, are among the most effective treatment strategies.
Relaxation, meditation, and otherwise "taking it easy"
are not effective solutions as valuable as such strategies may be
for your psychological well-being.
As you examine Figure 1, you may observe that the real key to the
treatment of high blood pressure is to practice a diversity of health-promoting
behaviors. By avoiding alcohol use, stopping smoking, switching
to a high-fiber, low-sodium, vegan-vegetarian diet, and engaging
in moderate, regular exercise, the problem of high blood pressure
usually will eliminate itself. However, as alluded to in the beginning
of this article, high blood pressure is not only a sign of distress
in your cardiovascular system, but also a cause.
If your blood pressure is elevated above what is normal and healthy
for our species, the pressure itself causes damage to arterial walls
of your circulatory system which can facilitate the build-up of
atherosclerosis and, thus, exacerbate the high blood pressure condition
itself. For this reason, it can be useful to reduce high blood pressure
as quickly as possible, rather than to patiently wait for the often
moderate healing pace of healthful lifestyle changes.
Fast way back to health
Is there a safe and effective way to rapidly normalize blood pressure?
Indeed there is, and the results of this method represent nothing
less than a breakthrough in the treatment of this condition. The
power of this method is hinted at in Figure 1 the method referred
to as Treatment F.
As you can see from Figure 1, there is one treatment option that
significantly outperforms all others labeled Treatment F. Treatment
F is not a new drug treatment. Neither is it a new, expensive, and
patented dietary supplement. It is supervised water-only fasting,
a technique that allows for the induction of a potent, natural,
adaptive, healing process in a professionally monitored environment.
This technique is known to surprisingly few health professionals,
though it has proved valuable in the treatment of a wide variety
of health problems. Recently, this powerful technique has been shown
to be an extremely effective method for allowing the body to rapidly
normalize high blood pressure more effectively than any other treatment
reported in the scientific literature.
It may seem incredible to many that supervised water-only fasting
can obtain such impressive results. In fact, most people, including
most doctors, simply will not believe that such a simple procedure
can be so powerful. Few suspect that the body is so capable of healing
itself in this way. For this reason, Dr. Alan Goldhamer and his
colleagues at the Center for Conservative Therapy set out to carefully
document the effectiveness of supervised water-only fasting, and
to report the results to the scientific community in a way that
other doctors might find convincing. In order to assist him in this
task, Dr. Goldhamer and his research staff at the Center sought
the help of one of the worldís leading nutritional biochemists,
Professor T. Colin Campbell of Cornell University.
Fortunately, Dr. Campbell and his statistical expert, Dr. Banoo
Parpia, were enthusiastic about joining the research effort. This
collaboration has resulted in one of the most remarkable studies
in the treatment of hypertension ever conducted. The results will
appear in the article, "Medically Supervised Water-Only Fasting
in the Treatment of Hypertension," scheduled for publication
in early 2001 in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics.
In the study, funded in part by a grant from the ANHS-National
Health Association, it was discovered that by having patients consume
nothing but pure water in a supervised environment of complete rest,
blood pressures rapidly normalized. In fact, many patients who began
their fasts while on high blood pressure drugs were required to
quickly discontinue their medications, so that their blood pressures
would not drop artificially low!
Over a twelve-year period, 174 patients diagnosed with mild to
severe high blood pressure were seen at the Center for Conservative
Therapy, and were placed on a medically-supervised, water-only fasting
regime. The treatment procedure included an average water-only fasting
period of 10.6 days, followed by a supervised refeeding period of
about one week with a whole, natural foods diet. The results of
the study are summarized in Figure 2.
In the final analysis, this safe and simple procedure demonstrated
extraordinary effectiveness. By the end of their stay, all patients
were able to discontinue their medications, no matter how severe
their initial condition. In fact, a review of Figure 2 indicates
that the most impressive results were observed with the most serious
cases. In cases of "moderate" to "severe" hypertension
(blood pressures of 174/93 or greater), the average reduction at
the conclusion of treatment was a remarkable 46/15! For these cases,
which medical practitioners generally would insist need lifetime
medical intervention, the average exit blood pressure was 128/78
using no medication whatsoever!
The reasons for this astonishing success are not yet entirely understood.
Certainly, two of the major causes of high blood pressure are being
addressed: excessive dietary salt is completely eliminated, and
it is likely that some patients experience some reversal of the
atherosclerosis process. However, Dr. Campbell has suggested that
additional mechanisms may be partly responsible for fastingís remarkable
effects such as the rapid reduction of a phenomenon known as "insulin
Though the details are incompletely understood, the clinical results
are clear and convincing. Water-only fasting represents an astonishing
breakthrough in the treatment of high blood pressure, with the only
"side effects" being that people lose weight and feel
For the rest of your life
Contrary to what many people have been led to believe, high blood
pressure is not a condition that requires patients to take drugs
for the rest of their lives. If you suffer from this silent but
serious condition, start taking effective actions today. As described
above, there are many things that you can do to assist your body
in regaining a healthy level of blood pressure. In particular, the
first thing to do is to adopt a diet consisting of whole, natural
foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes,
and the variable addition of nuts and seeds. Remember, the optimal
diet excludes any added salt, since it is a particularly troubling
component of the high blood pressure problem. In addition, this
diet has been shown to aid in the reversal of atherosclerosis, and
in weight reduction. Other important factors that will help to normalize
blood pressure include regular exercise and the elimination of alcohol
and tobacco. When followed diligently, such a combined strategy
is likely to be very effective.
For those who wish to address their high blood pressure problem
quickly, powerfully, and safely, supervised water-only fasting has
been shown to be a safe and effective tool for the rapid normalization
of blood pressure. Follow-up data from the Center for Conservative
Therapy study has shown that after several months, patients who
adhere to a healthful dietary regimen are able to sustain their
improvements. In addition, water-only fasting is a useful method
for helping people to re-educate their palates. This can make it
easier for you to fully enjoy a simpler, more health-promoting diet
and the benefits of vibrant, unmedicated, health for the rest of
More about the study
The fasting and high blood pressure study described in this article
was funded in part by a grant from the ANHS-National Health Association.
It was conducted at the Center for Conservative Therapy in Penngrove,
Calif. The results will appear in the article, "Medically Supervised
Water-Only Fasting in the Treatment of Hypertension," which
is scheduled for publication in early 2001 in the Journal of Manipulative
and Physiological Therapeutics.
For more information about see our web page at www.healthpromoting.com.