• High Blood Pressure
Most people can't tell when their blood pressure is high, which is why hypertension is called the "silent killer." In this case, what you don't know can hurt you. Elevated blood pressure can lead to a greatly increased risk of
The mechanism by which high blood pressure produces atherosclerosis is somewhat similar to what happens in a hose fitted with a high-pressure nozzle. All such nozzles come with a warning label that states, "Make sure to discharge pressure in hose after using." Unfortunately, many people frequently fail to pay attention to the warning and leave the hose puffed up with full pressure overnight. This rather common practice does not produce any immediate consequences. The hose doesn't develop leaks at the seams or burst outright on the first occasion you leave it untended. However, a garden hose that is frequently left under pressure will begin to age more rapidly than it would otherwise. Its lining will begin to crack, its flexibility will diminish, and within a season or two the hose will be sprouting leaks in all directions.
Similarly, when blood vessels are exposed to constantly high pressure, a similar process is set in motion. Blood pressures as elevated as 220/170 (systolic pressure/diastolic pressure), quite common during activities, such as weight lifting, do no harm. Only when excessive pressure is sustained day and night do blood vessel linings begin to be injured and undergo those unhealthy changes known as
Although it is important to lower blood pressure with all deliberate speed, only rarely does it need to be lowered instantly. In most situations, you have plenty of time to work on bringing down your blood pressure. However, that doesn't mean that you should ignore it. Over time, high blood pressure can damage nearly every organ in the body.
The best way to determine your blood pressure is to take several readings at different times during the day and on different days of the week. Blood pressure readings will vary quite a bit from moment to moment; what matters most is the average blood pressure. Thus, if many low readings balance out a few high readings, the net result may be satisfactory. However, it is essential not to ignore a high value by saying, "I was just stressed then." Stress is part of life, and if it raises your blood pressure once, it will do so again. To come up with an accurate number, you must include every measurement in your calculations.
In most cases, the cause of hypertension is unknown. The kidneys play an important role in controlling blood pressure, and the level of squeezing tension in the blood vessels makes a large contribution as well.
Lifestyle changes, such as quitting cigarettes, losing weight, and increasing exercise, can dramatically reduce blood pressure. Regarding exercise, one study found that engaging in aerobic exercise 60 to 90 minutes weekly may be sufficient for producing maximum benefits.
For many years doctors advised patients with hypertension to cut down on salt in the diet. Today, however, the value of this stressful dietary change has undergone significant questioning. Considering how rapidly our knowledge is evolving, we suggest consulting your physician to learn the latest recommendations.
If lifestyle changes fail to reduce blood pressure, or if you can't make these alterations, many effective drugs are available. Sometimes you need to experiment with a few to find one that agrees with you.
Principal Proposed Natural Treatments
There are no herbs or supplements for hypertension with solid scientific support. However, the supplement coenzyme Q 10 (CoQ 10 ) and extracts from the herb Stevia rebaudiana have shown some promise in preliminary trials.
Coenzyme Q 10
The supplement CoQ 10 has shown promise as a treatment for high blood pressure, but the evidence that it works is not yet strong.
study of 59 men already taking medication for high blood pressure found that 120 mg daily of CoQ
reduced blood pressure by about 9% as compared to placebo.
In addition, a 12-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 83 people with isolated systolic hypertension (a type of high blood pressure in which only the "top" number is high) found that use of CoQ
at a dose of 60 mg daily improved blood pressure measurements to a similar extent.
Also, in a 12-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 74 people with diabetes, use of CoQ
at a dose of 100 mg twice daily significantly reduced blood
pressure as compared to placebo.
For more information, including dosage and safety issues, see the full
The herb stevia is best known as a sweetener. Its active ingredients are known as steviosides. In a 1-year, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 106 people with moderate hypertension (approximately 165/103), steviosides at a dose of 250 mg three times daily reduced blood pressure by approximately 10%.
Benefits were also reported in a 2-year, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 174 people with milder hypertension (average initial BP of approximately 150/95).
However, once again, no benefits at all were seen in the placebo group. This is a red flag for problems in study design. Both of these studies were performed in China, a country that has a documented history of questionable medical study results.
Furthermore, a study by an independent set of researchers failed to replicate these findings.
Furthermore, a study by an independent set of researchers failed to replicate these findings.
For more information, including dosage and safety issues, see the full
Although it seems intuitive that relaxation should lower blood pressure, the evidence for the benefits of
However, a separate review of 9 randomized trials concluded that the regular use of transcendental meditation significantly reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure compared to a control.
Other Proposed Natural Treatments
The Iranian herb Achillea wilhelmsii was tested in a double-blind trial of 60 men and women with mild hypertension. 38
Although the research record is mixed,
Several studies have found that
Numerous studies have found weak evidence that
People who are deficient in
In a 30-day, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 39 people taking medications for hypertension, treatment with 500 mg of
Unexpectedly, one study found that a combination of vitamin C (500 mg daily) and grape seed
Other preliminary studies suggest possible benefit with
There is mixed evidence on whether
One study quoted as showing that a
The alternative therapies
For many years, the American Heart Association and other major foundations have recommended cutting down on saturated fat and increasing carbohydrates. However, growing evidence suggests that it is preferable to keep carbohydrate levels relatively low while replacing saturated fat with monounsaturated fats such as olive oil.
For a discussion of homeopathic approaches to high blood pressure, see the
Finally, because atherosclerosis is the main harm caused by hypertension, treatments discussed in the
There is one highly credible case report of severe, dangerous hypertension caused by consumption of
made from soy during the course of a clinical trial on this supplement.
As noted above, in one study, a combination of vitamin C and grape seed OPCs mildly increased blood pressure. In another study, use of vitamin E raised blood pressure in people with type 2 diabetes.
In addition, various herbs and supplements may interact adversely with drugs used to treat hypertension. For more information on this potential risk, see the individual drug article in the
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Last reviewed April 2009 by EBSCO CAM Medical Review Board
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