I've just been prescribed a drug for high blood pressure but I don't really want to take it because hair loss is listed as one of the side effects. Can you suggest an alternative course of treatment?
I explain high blood pressure to my patients like this: when you water your garden, you can increase the water pressure by putting a powerful pump on it or by squeezing the nozzle. Similarly, blood pressure increases when the heart (a powerful pump) beats faster or when the arteries are constricted.
Blood pressure varies continuously, rising with exercise or anxiety and falling as you relax. The problem comes with persistent high blood pressure (hypertension), which affects 'about one adult in six in this country and may damage the heart and other organs. Blood pressure measurements are given as two numbers: a resting healthy young adult should reach no more than 120/80 mmHg (units of millimetres of mercury). Generally, hypertension is diagnosed with a reading persistently higher than 140/90 mmHg, even at rest.
The mai factors that cause the heart to beat faster are stress; abnormal production of hormones (mainly adrenalin and thyroxin); chemicals including caffeine, prescription and recreational drugs; excess salt, and lack of oxygen to the brain or tissues, which makes the body try to compensate by increasing blood flow. Blood vessels( particularly arteries) constrict because of stress, muscle spasm (due to tension or fatigue), cholesterol, excess salt coffee, monosodium glutamate or recreational drugs.
There are various states of blood pressure. Stage one is when blood pressure rises when stress is combined with a stimulus such as drinking coffee, consuming excess salt, taking drugs, exercising or being at a high altitude. As soon as the effect of the stimulus passes and/or you relax, blood pressure returns to normal.
In stage two, the body is conditioned to stress so is continuously in a state of high alert, and blood pressure must be controlled with drugs or other means such as acupuncture and herbal remedies.
In stage three, the arteries are narrowed internally With plaque, and blood pressure is even higher, permanently. Strong drugs and diuretics are prescribed.
Stage four spells danger: permanently constricted arteries mean the organs are starved of oxygen and they begin to change in structure and function. The heart beats very fast and begins to get enlarged.
High blood pressure can't be neglected: the many complications include heart attacks, stroke and coronary artery disease, headaches, irritability, insomnia, dizziness, brain haemorrhage, retinal haemorrhage and kidney damage. Pregnant women may suffer from pre-eclampsia (raised blood pressure coupled with kidney problems).
lf your high blood pressure is recently diagnosed and is not too worrying the chances are that the following programme will help regularise it, and you may never need medication.
These are my suggestions
- Fast once weekly for l6 weeks on non-citrus fruits raw salad and water - the body will relax, so blood pressure will drop. lf you are able to take rest, do a water fast six times in 24 hours drink a 250mltumbler of water with three drops of lime juice and one teaspoon of honey in it. This has a powerful effect in lowering blood pressure and keeping it low.
- Avoid excess salt, coffee, smoking, red meat, fried food, cheese, rich curries, monosodium glutamate, bacon, sausages, contraceptive pills, HRT tablets and steroids. Drink no more than four units of alcohol weekly.
Rasagandha (Rasashala tablets) is an ayurvedic supplement that helps to calm the mind, relax muscles, lower blood pressure and induce good sleep. Take one tablet at bedtime for two months.
Acupuncture has a good effect in lowering blood pressure.
* Listen to a relaxation/meditation CD at bedtime or in the evening after work every day for two months, such as Dr Ali's Relaxation CD ( Integrated Health Group).
*Practise therapeutic iyenger yoga (particularly the corpse pose) and breathing exercises (particularly 'retention' breathing). Details are in my book Theropeutic Yoga, co-written with Jiwan Brar.
Have a full body massage as often as possible to de-stress. muscles. Massage your neck, or ask someone to do it for you, for l5 to 20 minutes twice weekly to improve oxygen supply to the brain so the heart is not beating so hard. Details on how to do the massages are on my Lifestyle DVD (Integrated Health Group).
Walk briskly in the fresh air for at least 30 to 60 minutes daily.