High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a silent ailment. It is a condition that, according to the American Heart Association, afflicts nearly one in three adults in the United States. Yet, such is the latent nature of this ailment, that a large majority of the sufferers are usually unaware of their condition till quite a late stage.
It becomes much simpler to understand when we realize that the term hypertension or high blood pressure refers to the time when our blood starts pushing against the walls of the arteries with increased force.
If blood pressure remains high for a sustained period of time, the risk of heart attacks, heart failure, strokes and kidney failure is increased tenfold. The normal blood pressure range is defined as less than 120, over less than 80 and pre-hypertension is diagnosed at the stage where blood pressure hovers around 120-139 over 80-89.
If high blood pressure levels are ignored and the problem is left untreated, the consequent boost in hypertension can eventually cause damage to the arteries. This, in turn, causes impairments in the blood flow to vital organs and leads to heart attack, kidney failure, stroke, eye damage or aneurysms.
After all the negative information, a positive piece on its extension and consequent changes in diet and lifestyle. However, the risk of high blood pressure increases with age as arterial walls lose their elasticity. There can be many contributing factors, yet doctors often cannot identify an exact cause for high blood pressure, in which case the person is said to have essential hypertension. The potential contributing factors include but are not limited to stress, excessive salt intake and resistance to diets high in calcium, magnesium and potassium.
Obesity and stress are the main two natural contributors towards hypertension levels and both must be maintained. However, the prescription drugs being taken include steroids, birth control pills, decongestants, NSAIDS and diet pills – all types that can witness a surge in blood pressure levels. Some over-the-counter medicines, such as those containing licorice root, ephedra, guarana, kola nut, yerba mate, ginseng and yohimbe, may also raise blood pressure.
While there is a wide array of drugs and medicines to control blood pressure levels, the important fact remains that there are also herbal and natural ways to deal with the problem. With a guarantee of no side effects and optimum results, these supplements have been proven to be helpful in the battle against high blood pressure or hypertension.
1) Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
Evidence suggests that the supplement CoQ10 may reduce high blood pressure levels. The main basis of it is a 12-week placebo-controlled trial of 83 people with systolic hypertension, aimed at examining the effect of CoQ10 supplements. Over the course of the experiment, there was a mean reduction in systolic blood pressure of 17.8 mm Hg in the CoQ10-treated group.
A study undertaken at the University of Western Australia also dealt with the effect of CoQ10 on blood pressure and glycemic control in 74 people with type 2 diabetes. Participants were randomly assigned to receive either 100mg CoQ10 twice daily, 200mg of the drug fenfibrate, both, or neither for 12 weeks.
CoQ10 supplements significantly decreased systolic and diastolic blood pressure (mean reduction 6.1 mm Hg and 2.9 mm Hg, respectively), along with reducing HbA1C levels, a marker for long-term glycemic control.
Of the seven random controlled trials conducted to test the effectiveness of garlic supplements for high blood pressure, three showed a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure and four in diastolic blood pressure.
Thus, researchers have concluded that garlic powder supplement is of clinical use in patients with mild high blood pressure. However, experts warn that garlic supplements should only be used under the supervision of a qualified health practitioner as, just like aspirin, garlic can also thin the blood.
The herb hawthorn is largely used to deal with high blood pressure by traditional herbal practitioners.
In a random, controlled trial by researchers in Reading, UK, 79 patients with type 2 diabetes were selected to receive either 1200 mg of hawthorn extract a day or placebos for 16 weeks. Medication for high blood pressure was also used by 71 percent of the patients.
At the end of 16 weeks, patients taking the hawthorn supplement showed a significant reduction in mean diastolic blood pressure (2.6 mm Hg), which is a testament to this herbs efficacy.
4) Fish Oil
Studies highlight the effect of omega-3 fatty acids on high blood pressure. Although fish oil supplements often contain both DHA (docohexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), there is some evidence that the former actively helps in lowering blood pressure levels.
5) Folic Acid
This B vitamin is essential for healthy development of red blood cells. It may help to lower high blood pressure in some people, by reducing elevated homocysteine levels, as established in a small study of 24 cigarette smokers that found that four weeks of folic acid supplementation significantly lowered blood pressure.
6) Ayurvedic Medicine
In Ayurveda, high blood pressure is treated according to each person’s dosha, or constitutional type. The pitta type may have a flushed face, reddened eyes, headaches, light sensitivity, irritability and, possibly, nosebleeds. The kapha type may have excess weight, water retention, high cholesterol, sluggishness and other associated problems. The vata type may feel cold, have gas, bloating, insomnia, nervousness and anxiety.
7) Traditional Chinese Medicine
Chinese alternative medicine experts term depression, anger, obesity, and high intake of fatty foods as the main reasons for increased blood pressure levels.
An acupuncture and herbal combination is recommended, while foods including water chestnut, turnip, honey, Chinese celery, hawthorn berries, and mung beans are strongly recommended.
8) Calcium, Magnesium, and Potassium
Calcium supplements had a modest but statistically significiant effect on systolic blood pressure (mean difference of 2.5 mm Hg), while a meta-analysis of five trials indicated that potassium supplementation led to a large but statistically non-significant reduction in systolic blood pressure (mean difference 11.2 mm Hg) and diastolic blood pressure (5.0 mm hg).
Similarly, the effectiveness of magnesium was only established the diastolic pressure levels, as in 12 random controlled trials, participants receiving magnesium supplements showed a statistically significant reduction.
9) Other Useful Natural Tips
For optimum blood pressure level maintenance, a person should eat eight to 10 servings of vegetables and fruit per day, while limiting animal protein to six ounces per day.
Salt intake also needs to be strictly controlled and even reductions of a single teaspoon can make all the difference when speaking about controlling blood pressure.
Four to five servings of nuts, seeds and dry beans per week also be incorporated into diets for better management. Similarly, fish must also be included, with at least three servings per week providing the omega-3 fatty acids needed for blood pressure management.