Hypertension is on the rise in the United States. As illnesses like diabetes and obesity effect more Americans, so does hypertension. A current shift in the way doctors diagnose hypertension will also increase the number of hypertension patients. The racial gaps in hypertension statistics are also shrinking, as environmental factors become more potent across demographic lines.
To some extent or another, hypertension is something we should all be worried about. Having well-regulated blood pressure is key in preventing cardiovascular disease, the worldwide leading cause of death. According to the American Heart Association, hypertension typically leads to heart attacks, heart failure, strokes, kidney disease, sexual dysfunction, and angina. In other parts of the body, hypertension has equally debilitating effects. Hypertension in the eye, for instance, may lead to glaucoma. Fortunately, changing laws and cultural perceptions surrounding marijuana have paved the way for innovative new hypertension treatment methods.
Understanding hypertension and the importance of regulating blood pressure is critical to the health of every adult, as is understanding the treatment options currently available. Fluctuating medical marijuana laws notwithstanding, cannabis products—both THC and CBD-centric—have enormous potential to effectively treat hypertension, glaucoma, and other blood pressure issues.
Living with Hypertension
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is an incredibly common condition. Over time, it impacts nearly everyone, though it’s reasonably easy to detect and treat. Essentially, hypertension occurs when the force of blood as it runs through the arteries is high enough to cause serious problems. Blood pressure is defined by the resistance arteries present to blood flow from the heart. Narrower arteries create higher blood pressure. Hypertension carries virtually no symptoms with it. Blood pressure can get dangerously high before a patient notices anything.
Hypertension has a wide variety of potential causes. Lifestyle-centric causes include:
Though the overall risk of hypertension is the same for males and females, the typical ages at which men and women experience hypertension changes between sexes. For men, hypertension usually comes at a younger age, while women usually experience it when they’re older.
A wrong diet can be a surefire way to develop hypertension. Obviously, not everyone’s body reacts to the same diet in the same way, but there are a number of foods and food types that can lead to hypertension if consumed in excess. Eliminating high-sodium foods should be priority one for anybody trying to avoid hypertension causing foods. Deli meats, frozen pizzas, and canned products like soups and tomatoes are all sodium-heavy items to watch out for. If you’re frequently eating a lot of these food items, step one in avoiding hypertension might be to eliminate or cut back on at least a few of them. Excessive sugar is the next big dietary hypertension magnet.
So what does living with hypertension look like? For a lot of people, it comes as a complete surprise and severely complicates life.
Tom’s story reflects many of the “missing millions” with high blood pressure. After a routine blood pressure check for a “blood pressure awareness” function at work, Tom’s health advisor looked up at him in shock and said, “I think you need to see your GP—right now.” Tom’s blood pressure was incredibly high, but with the help of his doctor, he was able to get things under control. Tom’s doctor prescribed medication, which Tom has to take first thing every morning.
Judith’s story is a bit more extreme. In her 34th week of pregnancy, Judith was rushed to the hospital after a checkup with her GP. Due to her hypertension, Judith was induced and her baby was delivered six weeks early. She was able to go home on medication after five days, but her child had a series of birth complications that kept her hospitalized for quite a while longer. Judith has altered her diet significantly since her initial diagnosis, and takes medication every day. She also attends a hypertension clinic regularly.
After a series of eye infections, Joy’s optician diagnosed her with hypertension that was causing hemorrhaging in her eye. Her blood pressure reading was so high that she could have had a heart attack at any moment. Joy had to go from a mild low-fat diet to something far more substantial and stick to a hefty exercise routine to get her blood pressure under control.
These hypertension stories, and many more like them, follow a fairly specific pattern. They demonstrate how difficult it is to identify hypertension before it’s already out of hand, and how often it becomes a lifelong struggle to keep under control.
For a fresh take on Hypertension treatment, read CBD for Your HBP? Good News if you Have Hypertension.
Ocular Hypertension and High Blood Pressure
Most of us probably associate high blood pressure with the heart and not the eye, but ocular hypertension is arguably an equally serious illness, with arguably more life altering implications. Ocular hypertension occurs when the pressure inside the eye is higher than it should be. High intraocular pressure (IOP) inhibits the eye’s ability to drain fluid, which builds further pressure. This IOP buildup can lead to glaucoma, a disease characterized by damage to the optic nerve. Glaucoma very common among older folks. In fact, it’s the leading cause of blindness in people 60 years and older.
It’s important to remember that ocular hypertension and glaucoma are not the same thing. Ocular hypertension does not cause optic nerve damage or blindness on its own. However, ocular hypertension can lead to glaucoma, and should be monitored closely before it becomes a high risk factor. If you are age 40 or older, it’s probably a good idea to get semi-regular eye checkups to ensure ocular hypertension doesn’t get out of hand.
Treatment for ocular hypertension depends largely on the individual and the opthamologist treating them. Your opthamologist may not treat you for ocular hypertension unless your IOP is higher than 28-30 mm Hg for an extended period of time. If you experience symptoms like blurred vision or chronic pain, most opthamologists will begin implementing a treatment plan.
Eyedrop medicine is a typical mode of treatment for ocular hypertension, designed to regulate intraocular pressure. Your ophthalmologist may prescribe a regimen of multiple eyedrop medicines. They will likely also check in with your progress after a few weeks of taking eyedrop medication. If ocular hypertension develops into glaucoma, an ophthalmologist may boost eyedrop medicines, prescribe oral medication, or schedule surgery when necessary.
Eye treatments, especially for glaucoma, can be expensive, which is why alternative treatment options for ocular hypertension and glaucoma are appealing. The advent of medical marijuana has opened up new doors of alternative ocular hypertension treatment, as well as the treatment of high blood pressure.
For more information on marijuana and ocular conditions, check out Ocular Hypertension: What It Is, and How to Deal With It.
Marijuana and Blood Pressure
The national push to legalize medical marijuana has led to a diversification of cannabis treatment possibilities. Cannabis derivatives are currently being tested out on a wide variety of illnesses including chronic pain, depression, migraines, and even cancer. It may also be an effective treatment for hypertension.
Using marijuana to treat high blood pressure is a complicated prospect. Some studies suggest that marijuana use can actually raise blood pressure and heart rate, if only temporarily. The problem is, even a temporary elevation of blood pressure could be hazardous to someone who already has hypertension. On the other hand, regular marijuana users develop a certain level of tolerance and sustained lowered blood pressure. One may wonder if an initial spike in blood pressure from marijuana use is worth its potentially alleviating effects. Ultimately, effectiveness may come down to the types of cannabis products being used to treat hypertension.
Talking about medicinal cannabis requires a thorough understanding of the difference between THC and CBD. THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) is the most prominent compound in marijuana. It’s psychoactive, which means it’s responsible for the “high” we usually associate with marijuana use. CBD (cannabidiol) is the second most prominent cannabis compound. It’s non-psychoactive, and even counteracts the effects of THC in CBD-heavy cannabis strains. CBD has become a much more popular in medical cannabis treatment, and may be more effective than high-THC cannabis products in treating hypertension.
In a randomized crossover study, a single dose of CBD reduced blood pressure in a large group of subjects. The study may give us a clue as to CBD may alleviate hypertension. Current research suggests that the body’s endocannabinoid system is a key blood pressure regulator. CBD increases cannabinoid levels in the body by indirectly regulating the cannabinoid (CB1 and CB2) receptors. This interaction accounts for CBD’s broad medicinal benefits, including the potential relief of hypertension. CBD’s neuroprotective properties also make it potentially effective in treating glaucoma.
For more information on CBD’s potential to treat hypertension, read Abstract Cures: CBD Oil And Hypertension.
CBD, THC, and cannabinoids in marijuana
CBD and THC are both present in most cannabis strains. However, if you’re looking to isolate CBD to treat hypertension, intraocular hypertension, or glaucoma, CBD oil may be your best bet. It’s a common, readily available form of CBD that’s seeing a lot of anecdotal success as a medicinal product. CBD oil is typically made from a “high-THC/low-CBD hemp”. As a high-CBD concentrate, it triggers the endocannabinoid system’s therapeutic, homeostasis effect on the body. Hemp only contains trace amounts of THC, making CBD hemp oil completely non-psychoactive. If you’re conscientious about avoiding THC completely, seek out 100% THC-free CBD oil. It’s much rarer in the market, but becoming more readily available as the industry grows.
The study on CBD and blood pressure mentioned above has received a lot of news attention, largely because the effect of CBD on the cardiovascular system had been inconclusive for years. Further research is certainly needed, but the fact that CBD oil had such an instantaneous effect on blood pressure levels makes it a prime candidate for alternative hypertension treatment.
For more information on CBD oil’s medicinal properties, consider What are the Benefits of CBD Oil?
There’s a lot of work to be done to clinically prove CBD’s ability to treat hypertension. Anecdotal evidence notwithstanding, it’s always important to follow the advice of your licensed physician before making drastic changes to a hypertension treatment plan. If you find that your current hypertension treatment isn’t working the way you’d like, consult with your physician about safely trying CBD oil, and research your local cannabis laws and regulations.