Oxidative stress and emotional stress are two significant risk factors
Dr. Sinatra: The cause of high blood pressure has been a mystery for decades. You know, when I was back in medical school in 1972, our professors would tell us that about 90 to 95 percent of high blood pressure was benign essential. Well, first of all, there's nothing benign about it and there's nothing essential about it, but a few areas were of concern. If you had, say a coarctation of the aorta, which is a narrowing of the aorta which causes high blood pressure, an overactive thyroid or an overactive adrenal.
But now only in the last 5 to 10 years, we've actually determined a cause of high blood pressure and it's oxidative stress. Now, what is that? Well, if you have relentless oxidative stress in your body, if you have a war going on in your body where you are generating more free radicals than your body can neutralize, then you're in a situation of oxidative stress. And when this happens, this causes constrictions of blood vessels. In other words, if there's heavy metals in the environment or cigarette smoke or if you're overweight, if there's a lot of inflammatory mediators in your bloodstream, all these factors are endothelial cell unfriendly, and when these situations accumulate, it can cause constriction of blood vessels. And when this happens, the blood vessels get tighter and tighter and the blood pressure goes up.
Another factor is your autonomic nervous system. This is a nervous system you can't control. It's like the fight-or-flight response and a lot of emotional stress factored in with oxidative stress, from the foods we eat and the heavy metals in the air and the air we breathe and all the chemicals and unnatural petro chemicals in the environment; all these factors create a perfect storm, and if your nervous system is under stress of if there's a lot of heightened sympathetic tone, this situation in itself causes high blood pressure.
Now, what a lot of doctors don't realize that oxidative stress is a big cause of high blood pressure. That's why lifestyle considerations are really important. You really need to take responsibility for your own health. You need to lose weight, exercise, take proper nutritional support, eat a healthy non-inflammatory diet; all these factors [are] what helps support blood pressure.