I recently spent the day with the family at the Taste of Colorado, a food and music festival in downtown Denver.

As soon as we got there, I spotted the bungee trapeze ride and ran to get in line. I was the only adult (past age 11) who was in line, but I didn't care. I'm a big kid and I'll never grow up.

As soon as I got strapped in, my heart was in my throat. I realized what I had gotten into. I exploded into the sky and I could feel my blood pressure rise. I bounced up and down into the sky for a several minutes. It took me awhile to come off that high.

If I had measured my blood pressure right after that craziness, I'm sure it would've been sky high.

Unfortunately, for many of Americans, elevated blood pressure is happening on a daily basis - without the bungee trapeze.

The most common diagnosis at the doctor's office is high blood pressure (hypertension). This affects Americans at a staggering rate, now reaching 1 in 3 Americans. Having a blood pressure reading that is greater than 140/90 on 3 occasions warrants the diagnosis of hypertension.

Addressing this for one's health is crucial because high blood pressure is the single most important risk factor for the development of heart attacks and stroke.

Health care costs related to hypertension reach several hundred billions of dollars per year, and that number probably won't change anytime soon. Hypertension costs 12% of total US health care costs - more than $185 billion per year. Madness, isn't it?

So, your doctor told you that you have high blood pressure. All you need to do is avoid salt like the plague right? Well, it's a little more complicated that that.

At your doctor's office, besides being told to "watch what you eat, and exercise", not much in terms of treatment is offered aside from medication. From a naturopathic perspective, there are many treatments that can be done naturally to effectively address hypertension. However, as any good naturopathic doctor, I start at the cause.

Why do Americans have high blood pressure in the first place?

There are many causes of high blood pressure. Here are some commonly missed causes:

1. Hyperinsulinemia (basically, high blood insulin) - How does high insulin cause high blood pressure? Here's a scenario - you eat a meal of sugary goodness, it causes an influx of blood sugar. This causes a spike in insulin, and sodium and water retention in the kidneys. Your blood vessels are like hoses, having more volume in a closed container will create high pressure.

2. Vitamin D deficiency - I see this in 80+% of my patients. Correction of this deficiency can cause a reduction in elevated high blood pressure that is comparable to taking medication. (optimizing vitamin D levels also addresses depression, pain, auto immune disease, and cancer). Plus it's cheaper and safer than medication. If you haven't had your vitamin D levels checked, ask your doctor.

3. Taking NSAIDS (aspirin, ibuprofen) - these medications block your body's production of some vasodilating hormones, called prostacyclins. Vasodilation is a process where your blood vessels relax and this creates lower pressure within them. Blocking hormones that do this, can cause high blood pressure.

4. Mercury Toxicity - This is almost never addressed at your typical doctor's office. Mercury has been shown in the research to be connected to high blood pressure, by preventing the breakdown of catecholamines ("fight or flight" chemicals). If you have silver colored fillings in your mouth, eat sushi and/or received childhood vaccinations, you have likely been exposed to mercury.

5. Other Drugs - like Prozac, Adderall, Lithium, Sudafed, can all cause high blood pressure. Let's not forget about the drug called caffeine.

6. Estrogen, and oral contraceptives - Estrogens promote sodium and water retention at the kidneys, which promotes fluid overload and high blood pressure. There are natural ways to address this that I'll discuss in next week's blog.

7. Food Allergens - Being exposed to foods that create a stress response can increase cortisol and potentially lead to high blood pressure over time.

8. Spinal Dysfunction - in the Chiropractic world, this is called subluxation. Having a vertebrae out of alignment can put stress on the whole body and leave one more susceptible to hypertension.

As you can see, having high blood pressure is more than just eating salty foods, and often times it's not even related to that. It's complex!

For treating hypertension, there are many safe and effective natural therapies that may be utilized. These therapies are often safer and at least as effective as pharmaceutical medications.