Magazine article Nutrition Health Review

Adrenal Glands and the Rest of You

Magazine article Nutrition Health Review

Adrenal Glands and the Rest of You

Article excerpt

An interview with Decker Weiss, N.M.D.

Q. How can the adrenal glands affect blood pressure?

A. Well, there is the Western way, being a "type A" personality. People with a type A personality are stressed and put out more cortisol. This leads to putting on more weight, experiencing increased blood pressure, and things like that.

There is also the non-Western way, which is acknowledged by other systems of medicine. The adrenal glands may be hypofunctioning. One sign is a blood pressure "deficiency." An example might be a little old lady who might be tired and fatigued but might have very high blood pressure. That's the deficiency-type high blood pressure, and it is recognized more in Chinese and Tibetan medicine. It is very real; it is not so much that it is overlooked in medicine, but our drug system is not an herbal system. It is difficult to treat this deficiency-type blood pressure.

Q. What are some of the dangers of high blood pressure?

A. The basic dangers are two-fold. First of all, there is the risk of a stroke. You constantly have to be aware of that, especially the systolic pressure-the top number. If it starts to get in the ISO's to 200's, we call it malignant hypertension. It needs to be reduced and prevented, but would you be willing to prescribe toxic drug medications in order to manage that problem?

Absolutely; you wouldn't even blink. Would you potentially be shortening the patient's life? Of course. We do not openly say that, but when you have a risk of stroke, you do not care about anything else. As a cardiologist, I am more fearful of a stroke than a heart attack. If I can get a patient through a heart attack, the patient will be weak, but we can work with it. With a stroke, however, what's done is done.

The second problem is chronically high blood pressure that isn't malignant but is enough to do end-organ damage over time. Elevated blood pressure affects the eyes, heart, and kidneys, and it slowly increases the risk of all types of other problems.

Q. If you have a quick spike in heart rate because of sudden, intense exercise or a stimulant, does that increase the risk of a stroke, even though your blood pressure is usually relatively normal?

A. It should not be a larger risk. The danger, though, is the "weekend warrior." Blood pressure and heart rate should go up during exercise. It should not go up into the 200's, but if a person is not in very good shape, it becomes a little more dangerous.

The weekend warrior who really overdoes it faces more of a risk, but this seldom happens. Normally, the risk of a stroke is related to very high blood pressure, but potentially, yes, it could happen. You have to be careful.

Q. Is there a correlation between how quickly your heart races during exercise and blood pressure problems?

A. Not necessarily. That would depend more on the intensity of what you are going to do. You should not get on a bicycle and start pedaling, then have your heart rate immediately go up. You might get some cardiologists who disagree with that, though.

What that correlates to is that your heart burns fat during rest and exercise. If you are a jogger or a runner, you can feel when you hit your pace. When you start to go above it, you have gone from burning fat to burning sugar. The heart and the body do not like that. That's when you get sore. The heart wants to burn fat, and it does that when you've got that pace going.

Q. How common are tumors on the adrenal glands?

A. A rare event. These tumors are called pheochromocytomas. They do occur, and they are usually missed. Some ultrasound and x-rays examinations can detect them, but when they happen, it's a big problem. What we are looking at is kind of a secondary cause of the hypertension. An excess of cortisol is called Gushing's syndrome, or excess aldosterone.

Atherosclerosis is a systemic disease. It affects the smaller pipes first, such as the eyes, kidneys, toes, and fingers. …

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