In the first part of this article, I described the roles of magnesium deficiency and kidney health in the high blood pressure equation. I also mentioned the scale of this health issue, which affects one in three adults. In this contribution, I will discuss three other key players and, in a subsequent posting, we will look at treatment options that may be preferable to a lifelong prescription of blood pressure medication. The three remaining issues in this quintet of hypertension root causes include high homocysteine, taurine deficiency and the role of nitric oxide.
Homocysteine is an important workhorse amino acid. However, when this work is done, this nutrient must be successfully recycled, or it turns from an asset to a major liability. If the recycling fails, homocysteine becomes the most vicious of all free radicals. It was once thought that this unstable molecule limited its wrecking ball fury to tearing lesions in our arteries. However, it is now known that homocysteine can also attack all organs. In fact, your homocysteine levels in a blood test are a much greater guideline to potential heart health issues than cholesterol ever was.
I suspect that you are wondering how this recycling happens and why it can fail. Homocysteine is broken down into core components by a bodily process called methylation. Some of these are re-used and some excreted. This process involves several key nutrients called methyl donors. These nutrients are inexpensive and they can not be patented. Hence, we have seen a massive marketing focus on lipid-lowering drugs for cholesterol, while many doctors have barely been made aware of a more important consideration. The methyl donors involved are vitamin B12, vitamin B6 and folic acid and, in their absence, recycling fails and mayhem ensues.
Why So Many Are Missing the 3 Key Methyl Donors
It is estimated that more than 50% of people over 40 have excessive homocysteine levels, according to a blood test. Why the huge level of vulnerability? As is often the case, it is all about diet and lifestyle. B12 deficiency is par for the course amongst vegetarians because good levels of B12 are not found in plants. Spirulina is the highest B12-supplying plant, but a cup of this expensive supplement features the B12 equivalent of a single bite of steak or a half teaspoon of braised liver. B12 is also depleted by stress and alcohol and, most importantly, is no longer supplied by one of our staple foods – bread.
One downside of the “green revolution” hybridising experiment is that the new wheat plants (derived from irradiating the original seed and selecting the mutants) struggle with the uptake of cobalt. Cobalt is the building block of B12, also known as “cobalamin” – you can see it in the name. Many of us are now deficient in this nutrient due to the green revolution and wheat hybridisation.
B6 is often called the stress vitamin. In every country I tour, I make the same enquiry. I ask: “How many of you can say, in all honesty, that you do not suffer anxiety you would rather be without?” On average, one person in fifty raises their hand. These are the lucky few who have something of value to share or, perhaps, they are just lying!
Finally, folic acid is what we remove in the outer part of vegetables and seed when processing or cooking. White bread has 85% less folic acid than wholemeal, for example, and white rice is similarly diminished in comparison to brown rice.
How to Lower Homocysteine
Most people over 40 should test for homocysteine in a blood test at the next general checkup. It is covered by Medicare in Australia but, in some instances, your doctor may have to look up the word before understanding its importance. If your levels are higher than 7 micromoles per litre, you need to act. I had myself tested some years ago, after interviewing South African heart specialist, Dr Willem Serfontein. My levels were a very high 17 micromoles per litre, so I was thankful to be alerted to this time bomb. I supplemented with high doses of the three B vitamins and monitored myself every month. It took six months to get down to 9. This is a bit of a wake up call for all supplementation. It often took many years to create the shortage, so it is unlikely you will fix it in a month. Here's what I took:
100 mg of B6 each day
1000 mcg of sublingual B12 each day – many of us are lacking a synergist called “intrinsic factor”, which governs the availability of B12 via our gut. Hence the sublingual alternative, where the B12 is absorbed via the tongue.
1000 mcg of methyl folate each day – it is critically important that you avoid synthetic folic acid (like that added to bread after the original is removed with processing). This man-made garbage has recently been linked to a range of health problems, including cancer.
A B-complex supplement each day – it is important to be aware that B vitamins need one another for optimum functioning. They bounce off each other in a synergistic manner, so it is essential to combine a B complex with any singular B vitamin supplement.
So, that's four pills a day, for a minimum of six months, to be sure you have adequately addressed your high homocysteine issue. There is a proven link between reclaiming your arterial health by addressing homocysteine and lowering high blood pressure.
Taurine and Blood Pressure
The amino acid taurine is more abundant in meat than in plant food, so this is another common issue with vegetarians. However, it can be a problem for all of us if we have exhausted our limited capacity to produce protease.
Protease is the enzyme responsible for breaking down protein into amino acids. According to Dr Edward Howell, we have genetically-inherited limitations to the amount of enzymes our pancreas and liver can produce in a lifetime. If we consume large quantities of cooked or processed food, we are effectively drawing from a finite ‘bank account’. In the case of protease, this is not a good outcome. When we are unable to access amino acids from protein there are multiple negatives, and one of them is a taurine deficiency.
Taurine is known to reduce high blood pressure. The most likely explanation relates to taurine's role in assisting cellular uptake of insulin. There is a powerful link between Type 2 Diabetes and hypertension. In fact, they may be part of the same wider health issue. Taurine also assists with fluid retention, which has also been linked to high blood pressure.
Nitric Oxide and Blood Pressure
The discovery of nitric oxide and its importance in our bodies has generated three Nobel prizes. Quite simply, nitric oxide dilates our blood vessels to ease the flow of blood and oxygen. This has obvious importance for hypertension, but it can also be very important for a happy sex life. More blood flow to the penis and clitoris increases the firmness of erections and the sensitivity of the clitoris and this seems a pretty synergistic outcome.
A common cause of low nitric acid is uric acid. The most common dietary villain here is high fructose corn syrup from soft drinks. Americans consume more than six hundred cans per person per year and this is a major driver of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Greens are the best dietary source of nitric oxide, so once again the mighty green smoothie shines as a wonder food.
Arginine is the amino acid required for nitric oxide production and supplementation of 3 to 5 grams of this amino acid per day has proven a great tool to reduce blood pressure, while also spicing up your sex life.
Hypertension is incredibly common and the typical response is to ignore the problem or to opt for a lifetime of symptom-treating drugs with their inevitable side effects. You can determine the root cause of your issue and solve the problem and you may just reduce your likelihood of other degenerative diseases and enliven your love life in the process.
In my next post I will discuss proven, natural treatment strategies for reducing blood pressure.