Blood pressure is created by the heart. When the heart ventricles contracts there the blood flows out of the heart into the lungs and systemic circulation. When the ventricles are near the end of the contraction the maximum pressure created and is labeled systole. This is the top number reported by a sphygmomanometer (a device that measures pressure in an inflatable arm cuff around your arm). When the ventricles relax, valves close (pulmonic and aortic), and blood slows to the arteries and can stop altogether. The pressure is at the low end of the cycle and is called diastole. The relaxing ventricles now are filled with blood from the atria and when full, will contract and continue the cycle. Thus, when the ventricles contract the pressure in the arteries increases to a max of systole and then they relax and the pressure decreases to a low of diastole – then the cycle continues (stopping only when you die).

Ideal Blood Pressure

Blood flow is critical to deliver oxygen and nutrients to all the cells in our body as well as carry away waste products. Pressure drives this flow and if too low will cause lightheadedness and fainting and if too high will create damage to multiple systems.

An ideal blood pressure (at rest) is 120/80 mmHg (systolic number is 120 and diastole number is 80). Aggressive treatment starts when your systolic number goes above 140 mmHg (150 mmHg if you are over 60 years old) or when your diastolic number reaches 90 mmHg.

Standard Treatment for High Blood Pressure

Standard treatment in the medical office is drugs that focus on relaxing the arteries. Doctors may tell you to eat healthy and exercise but typically will start a medication at the first visit showing hypertension. In my practice I never make a diagnosis of hypertension until I have obtained multiple readings, at the patients home, at a resting state.

When I do find a high blood pressure I strongly encourage my patients to move their diet to a whole foods plant based diet (WFPBD). If they do that, I typically can avoid prescribing medications. Even in my patients with long standing hypertension if they change their eating habits I can usually take them off their medications – even those on multiple drugs.

Exercise is important but diet is the key. When I first started practicing medicine I emphasized exercise but now I want people to realize that if your diet is poor, exercise will not be enough to gain health.

To learn more, check out the links below!

Dr. McDougall, https://www.drmcdougall.com/health/education/health-science/common-health-problems/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/, “Hypertension (High Blood Pressure”

Dr. McDougall, https://www.drmcdougall.com/health/education/videos/mcdougalls-moments/high-blood-pressure-a-symptom-not-a-disease/, “McDougall’s Monents: High Blood Pressure is a Symptom, Not a Disease.”

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, https://www.pcrm.org/health-topics/high-blood-pressure, “High Blood Pressure: Lower Blood Pressure with a Plant-Based Diet”