A Silent Killer: High Blood Pressure

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a common disease in both men and women. Hypertension is called the “silent killer” because it generally produces no obvious symptoms even while it causes widespread damage to the heart, brain, kidneys, and other vital organs. Although it can strike anyone at any time of their life, it’s most commonly seen in older individuals. In fact, over 70% of American women and 50% of American men over the age of 70 have hypertension. Other risk factors for this disease include high cholesterol levels, smoking, obesity, and diabetes.1

Normal blood pressure is defined as a systolic pressure of 130 mm Hg or below and a diastolic pressure of 85 mm Hg or below. High normal is pressures of 131-139 systolic and 86-89 diastolic. Hypertension is defined as a pressure of 140 systolic over 90 diastolic and above.

Blood pressure generally rises and falls throughout the day in a cyclic rhythm and is influenced by many factors, such as exercise and emotional stress.  To get the most accurate picture of your blood pressure, take numerous measurements at different times and average them.

Although doctors still don’t know what causes this most common type of hypertension, current research indicates that a complex interaction between genetic, environmental, and other variables is a significant factor. Secondary hypertension, which is much less common, is high blood pressure caused by known medical conditions, such as kidney disease, pregnancy, and sleep apnea.

The real dangers arise when blood pressure is elevated over a period of years or decades. Over such a time span, hypertension can cause significant damage to blood vessels that supply life-giving oxygen and nutrients to all parts of the body. The heart, brain, and kidneys, along with all other major body parts, can suffer irreparable harm from long-term hypertension.

It’s important to remember that an unhealthy elevation in just one of the two pressures (systolic or diastolic) can have disastrous long-term health consequences. Isolated high systolic pressure, which is the most common form of high blood pressure in older adults, is thought by many to be a significant indicator of heart attacks and strokes in people middle-aged and older. Isolated high diastolic pressure is a strong risk factor for heart attacks and strokes, especially in younger adults.

Hypertension Can Be Controlled Naturally

For those who hesitate to use anti-hypertensive drugs for whatever reason, non-drug strategies may significantly help in supporting healthy blood pressure. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is now recommended as a first-line approach in managing the disease. The DASH diet is high in fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious foods that are rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium. People following the DASH diet are encouraged to decrease their saturated fats and replace them with foods that are high in monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids.

Other natural ways to control hypertension include not smoking, obesity control, and salt restriction – the current recommendation is for people with hypertension to limit their salt intake to 2400 mg (about 1 teaspoon) per day.

Arginine – The Source of Nitric Oxide

Another natural way to help support healthy blood pressure is through the use of L-Arginine based supplements.  L-Arginine is an amino acid that plays a vital role in promoting vascular health through the production of Nitric Oxide (NO).

Nitric oxide penetrates and crosses the membranes of almost all cells in the body, and it helps regulate many functions. It is even involved in memory function. In blood vessels, NO is vitally important because it regulates the tone of the endothelium, the layer of smooth cells that line the inside of the vessels. If these endothelial cells become dysfunctional, they can cause spasms or constrictions of the blood vessels that can then lead to hypertension.

Learn more about your options today. Visit www.hypertensa-adv.com for more information. 

  1. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/why-high-blood-pressure-is-a-silent-killer/know-your-risk-factors-for-high-blood-pressure

Safe Alternative Therapies for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can occur after a person has been through a traumatic event, such as combat exposure, a terror attack, a serious accident, a natural disaster, or sexual or physical assault or abuse.  Not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will be diagnosed PTSD.  About 60% of men and 50% of women experience trauma in their lives and it is estimated that about  7-8% of the entire U.S. population will have PTSD during their lifetime.[1]  People who have been diagnosed with PTSD can experience  a variety of psychological and physical symptoms which include reliving the event, avoidance, negative changes in beliefs and feelings, hyperarousal, sleeplessness, muscle fatigue, and digestion disorders.

PTSD is such a complex disease, affecting the body and brain in such a way that makes standardizing treatment very difficult.  The current treatment protocols available for people suffering from PTSD can be effective but are also limited.  One of the most effective treatment protocols currently used to manage PTSD, is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).  There are different types of CBT, including Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) which is used to help a person understand how trauma can change thoughts and feelings. Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE), which is designed to condition or desensitize a person with PTSD, by helping them relive the experience through talk therapy repeatedly until the memories are no longer upsetting.  This may also include physically going to the location where the traumatic event occurred that may be intentionally avoided.[2]

Medications are often prescribed as an adjunct to CBT and other therapies used for treating PTSD. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, “Benzodiazepines and atypical antipsychotics should generally be avoided for PTSD treatment because they do not treat the core PTSD symptoms.” Pain medications are also often used to treat pain associated with PTSD, but can be very dangerous and addicitve. A recent study by a VA researcher found that veterans with PTSD were two times as likely to be prescribed opioids as those without mental-health problems. They were more likely to get two or more opioid painkillers at the highest doses. Veterans with PTSD were more than twice as likely to suffer bad outcomes like injuries and overdoses if they were prescribed opioid painkillers, the study found.

As the intelligence about the causes and effects of PTSD has improved, attention has been directed towards specific abnormalities associated with the human nervous system, particularly the parasympathetic autonomic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is the “rest and digest” part of the nervous system and it is responsible for many restorative functions. The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for many of the automatic body functions such as heart rate, breathing and digestion.  According to numerous studies in patients with PTSD, there appears to be a blunting of total autonomic activity, marked in particular by a reduction of nighttime parasympathetic activity. The inability of PTSD patients to effectively initiate parasympathetic activity can lead to an imbalance of nervous system activity and yield symptoms including anxiety, rapid heartbeat, panic spells and increased sweating. Parasympathetic suppression can also cause sleep dysfunction, abnormal dreams and memory disturbances. There is an emerging consensus that sleep disturbance may be a core feature of PTSD.

Improving nervous system health and balancing parasympathetic and sympathetic activity is a key component in the successful treatment of PTSD. Providing clinically validated alternatives to the currently prescribed medications is essential to improving the treatment of PTSD.   There are currently natural medication options available that can help to manage the increased physiologic and metabolic demands of PTSD. Recent studies involving the medical foods  Sentra AM® (acetyl l-carnitine HCL, choline bitartrate, l-glutamic acid) and Sentra PM® (acetyl l-carnitine HCL, choline Bitartrate, 5-HTP, l-glutamic acid)  have yielded very positive results in patients suffering from symptoms related to PTSD. These products are specially formulated using amino acids, nutrients and certain botnaicals and are believed to influence the production and absorption of neurotransmitters essential to autonomic nervous system function. They may be particularly effective at targeting symptoms of PTSD and provide a new, safe treatment option for this condition.[3] Civilians, active service and military veterans are often reluctant to seek treatment for PTSD symptoms because of the perceived stigma associated with a psychiatric diagnosis and psychiatric medications. Medical foods like Sentra AM and Sentra PM provides patients and providers with a safe, effective and reliable therapeutic alternative to the current drug protocols being prescribed.



[1] Gradus, Jamie L. “Epidemiology of PTSD” ptsd.va.gov.  January 30 2014.  Web.  June 2014.  http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/PTSD-overview/epidemiological-facts-ptsd.asp

[2] “What is PTSD?” ptsd.va.gov. January 17 2014. Web. June 2014. http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/PTSD-overview/basics/what-is-ptsd.asp

[3]Targeted Medical Pharma, Inc.. Administration of an Amino Acid-Based Regimen for the Management of Autonomic Nervous System Dysfunction Related to Combat Induced Illness. Publication Pending. Print.

The Dangers of Sleep Aids

Quality sleep is necessary not only for proper concentration and daytime alertness, but impacts health a variety of positive ways, including improved immune function, better memory, and decreased risk of obesity.[1]  Commonly used sleep aids such as Benzodiazepines and Zolpidem, help you to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, but do not improve deep sleep or REM (dream) sleep and often leave people groggy in the morning.[2]

Benzodiazepines are a type of hypnotic medication that is used by the body to increase the rate at which GABA is used.  GABA is a neurotransmitter that is known for inducing sleep and reducing anxiety.  Short term, these drugs have been shown to be an effective and helpful way to facilitate sleep.  Long term, on the other hand, the use of these medications is not recommended by doctors.  Benzodiazepines are associated with many risks including drug dependence, withdrawal symptoms, drug tolerance, dizziness, and risks of falling.  Rebound insomnia, which causes the symptoms of insomnia to worsen after stopping medications, is also common when people stop taking benzodiazepines.  According to the American Geriatric Society BEERS Criteria, a clinical tool that addresses potentially inappropriate medication use in older adults, the use of benzodiazepines should be avoided due to geriatric patient’ increased sensitivity to benzodiazepines and decreased metabolism of long-acting agents.[3]

The most commonly prescribed sleep aid in the United States is zolpidem (ambien).  The FDA has recently issued additional warning for drugs containing zolpidem (ambien, ambien CR, Edluar, and zopimist) recommending the bedtime dose be lowered especially for women. New data shows that blood levels in some patients can still be high enough in the morning to impair activities that require alertness including driving.

The impact of AM grogginess on function cannot be understated.  Kevin Wright, PhD published a study in JAMA in 2006, showing that patients who suffered with AM grogginess scored worse on cognitive and memory tests than patients who had stayed awake for more than 24 consecutive hours.[4]

Options to improve the quality of sleep without causing AM grogginess are more prevalent now than ever before and are a much safer and more effective way to manage insomnia and other sleep disorders.  Studies show that people can improve their insomnia by changing sleep habits.  Examples of this include going to bed consistently at the same time, having a darkened room, not using your bedroom for non-sleeping activities, and avoiding stimulants about 3 hours before bedtime.

Medical foods are a safe and effective option for patients with insomnia and other sleep disorders. Medical foods are amino acids and other nutrients, that when combined, correct the metabolic deficiencies of diseases and conditions.  They provide a solution that cannot be obtained from diet alone or supplements. They have been found to improve the quality of sleep without the morning grogginess or side effects of other prescription sleep medications. Medical foods may make getting a good nights’ sleep an achievable goal.



[1] Arch Dis Child 2006;91:881-884 doi:10.1136/adc.2005.093013

[2] Zolpidem Containing Products: Drug Safety Communication- FDA Requires Lower Recommended Doses (2013). Retrieved April 23, 2014. http://www.fda.gov/safety/medwatch/safetyinformation/safetyalertsforhumanmedicalproducts/ucm334738.htm

[3] AGS BEERS Criteria for Potentially Inappropriate Medication use in Older Adults (2012). Retrieved April 23, 2014. http://www.americangeriatrics.org/files/documents/beers/PrintableBeersPocketCard.pdf

[4] Adam T. Wertz, BS; Joseph M. Ronda, MS; Charles A. Czeisler, PhD, MD; Kenneth P. Wright, PhD

JAMA. 2006;295(2):159-164. doi:10.1001/jama.295.2.163.

Sleepless in America

Eighty three percent of Americans say they do not always get a good night’s sleep on a regular basis, according to the 2013 Rx Sleep Survey conducted by Harris Interactive. The results also revealed that forty-eight percent of Americans say stress and anxiety prevent them from getting a good night’s sleep on a regular basis.  There are gender differences with more women than men are likely to have difficulty falling and staying asleep and to experience more daytime sleepiness. According to the Harris survey more women (88 percent) than men (78 percent) suffer from lack of sleep or sleep disorders, Fifty-six percent of women say anxiety and stress are the leading reasons for lack of restful sleep, compared to 40 percent of men. For all the other top reasons Americans do not always get a good night’s sleep more woman than men report:

  • Inability to turn off thoughts (16% more women than men)
  • Pain (13% more women than men)
  • Being overtired (22% more women than men)
  • Background noise (25% more women than men)
  • Children or pets (33% more women than men)

It is unclear why more women than men report sleep disorders. It is possible that women may require more sleep than men or that they may simply have greater physiological consequences to lack of sleep than men. Pregnancy and menopause too can dramatically alter sleep patterns. What is known is that the consequences of too little sleep on women are dangerous. According to a recent study conducted by Duke University, women who get too little sleep have a higher risk of developing heart disease, depression or other psychological problems. They are also more likely to develop blood clots which put them at greater risk for stroke.

Regarding treatment, the results revealed that while overall 25 percent of Americans would be willing to take a prescription sleep aid to improve sleep quality, the majority of Americans (71 percent) would rather use other means to get a good night’s rest. When it comes to treatment for sleep disorders the gender disparities continue.  More women (29 percent) than men (20 percent) would be willing to take a prescription sleep aid. The survey also found that women (68 percent) are less inclined than men (75 percent) to use other means than prescription sleep aids to help them sleep. These results are supported by research on inflammatory markers showing that women experience chronic pain more frequently, with greater intensity and longer duration than do men.  Having more pain during the day, the ease and facility of pharmaceutical solutions may be most appealing to women.

According to the CDC, the number of prescriptions for pharmaceutical sleep aids has increased dramatically in the past 10 years with more than 9 million Americans or 1 in 25 are using such aids.  While not a cause of death, recent studies suggest that patients taking prescription drugs for sleep were nearly five times as likely as non-users to die over a period of two and a half years. Sleep drugs have very serious side effects which can impair daily function and overall quality of life. The popular misconception of these drugs is that they improve overall sleep quality, when in reality they often interfere with a patient’s ability to achieve meaningful restorative sleep and normal physiologic function. The FDA recently ordered a label change for the popular sleep drug zolpidem (ambien) because women are more susceptible to next-morning impairment. With issues such as addiction, rebound insomnia, morning grogginess and memory loss, many providers are encouraging both men and women to seek alternatives to prescription drugs for sleep.

Alternatives to Prescription Sleep Drugs

There are many non-pharmacologic therapeutic options for patients affected by sleep disorders including educating patients about sleep, sleep hygiene, aerobic exercise and cognitive behavioral therapy. One new and rapidly expanding field of treatment is the use of medical foods to manage the specific amino acid and neurotransmitter deficiencies associated with sleep disorders. Medical foods are a well defined FDA regulatory category established by the Orphan Drug Act of 1988. Medical foods work on a different pathway from other prescription drugs and contain ingredients that are Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) by the FDA.

Rather than focusing on a single receptor site or molecule, medical foods work on multiple pathways providing depleted cells with the amino acids and specific nutrients that are needed to help fall asleep and achieve restorative sleep, many of which cannot be replaced by simple dietary alterations or supplements alone. For example, insomnia is often a co-morbidity of anxiety and of chronic pain. These specific conditions alter the metabolic processes of the nervous system resulting in a relative nutritional deficiency. Correcting the nutritional deficiencies is an approach that has shown to be effective with minimal to no side effects. The management of sleep is a complex process that is influenced by other diseases and conditions, and even gender. Talk to your healthcare professional about alternatives to prescription drugs for sleep.