High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a serious condition in which blood pressure measures above 130/80 millimetres of mercury (mmHg). If you have hypertension, you are at higher risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. Thankfully, there are many ways to get your blood pressure controlled and lower your risk of these health effects.
This article will discuss the facts about lowering blood pressure without traditional medications, highlighting lifestyle changes and the potential blood pressure-lowering effect of natural substances.
What’s considered high blood pressure?
According to the 2017 American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology Guidelines on Hypertension, BP level categories are described in the table below. Note that you must have an elevated reading on more than one occasion for a diagnosis of hypertension.
|Blood Pressure Category||Systolic Blood Pressure (mm Hg)||Diastolic Blood Pressure (mm Hg)|
What to know about herbs & supplements
Professional medical societies, like the American Medical Association, agree that the best way to get nutrients is through what you eat.
Introducing nutrients through supplements like vitamins (supplementation) is recommended for some people—for example, people with specific nutritional deficiencies and pregnant people—but most people can get proper nutrients through their diet.
Although there is evidence that some herbs and supplements may help lower blood pressure, the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology favour lowering your BP with nutrition by eating a nutritious diet.
Herbs and supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Association (FDA) in the strict way that medications are. Dosages in supplements can vary due to varied manufacturing processes, and there is a possibility of contaminants in the products.
Non-prescription herbs and supplements can interact with medications in serious ways and cause adverse side effects. Always discuss any nonprescription medications or remedies with your healthcare team.
3 Supplements for High Blood Pressure
The following are supplements for high blood pressure. Always ask your provider before starting a supplement.
Potassium is perhaps the best example of a natural supplement that lowers blood pressure, an effect that has been consistently demonstrated in well-conducted studies. Research has shown that supplementing potassium in the diet (aiming for 3500-5000 milligrams per day) can lower BP by four to five points.
While we often think of bananas as a great source of potassium, the element is also found in high amounts in many other fruits, vegetables, and meats. Good sources of dietary potassium include:
- Dried apricots
- Potatoes and sweet potatoes
It is important to note that non-dietary sources of potassium are prescription items that need to be managed closely by a healthcare provider. They are typically used in patients who are potassium deficient, not in people with low blood pressure.
It’s not always a good idea for everyone to load up on potassium. People with chronic kidney disease and especially people on dialysis should speak with their healthcare provider about potassium in their diet. They need to avoid excess potassium because while the kidneys usually maintain appropriate levels of potassium in the blood, kidney disease can result in dangerously high levels of potassium.
Magnesium deficiency has been associated with high blood pressure. That said, while would make sense that taking magnesium supplements could potentially lower BP, studies have been mixed. One meta-analysis of magnesium supplementation demonstrated a two-point drop in BP.
Magnesium helps the gastrointestinal tract, nervous system, and cardiovascular system. Good sources of dietary magnesium include:
- Leafy green vegetables (e.g., kale and spinach)
- Dried apricots
- Nuts and beans
Magnesium supplements can also be purchased over the counter (OTC). One common side effect of taking excess magnesium is diarrhoea.
Calcium deficiency has also been linked with high blood pressure. Taking more calcium has been shown to lower blood pressure by up to two and a half points in people with hypertension.
Calcium is an essential element that we often think of as being important for healthy bones but it also has other key roles in the body. Like magnesium, calcium is also involved in smooth muscle and nervous system function.
Good sources of dietary calcium include:
- Dairy products (e.g., milk, yoghurt, cheese)
- Fish (e.g., sardines and salmon)
- Leafy greens
Calcium is also available as an OTC supplement, but you should be aware that it can have possible medication interactions. Adults should aim to get about 1300mg of calcium per day.
3 herbs for high blood pressure
There is some evidence that certain herbs can help lower blood pressure. While the data is sometimes controversial, the following herbs may have a blood pressure-lowering effect.
Garlic has been used medicinally for centuries. Some studies have shown a blood-pressure-lowering effect of garlic supplementation. In one meta-analysis, people with high blood pressure saw an eight-point reduction in their blood pressure with garlic supplementation.
Garlic can be taken in the following forms:
- Raw garlic
- Liquid garlic extracts
Note that garlic supplementation can increase bleeding and should be used cautiously in people taking blood-thinning medication.
Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, which have several potential beneficial health effects for brain and heart health.
While previous studies of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation showed a possible benefit for cardiovascular health, the results were mixed and the required dose to have an effect has been unclear.
A 2022 meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Heart Association showed that supplementation with 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acid lowered blood pressure by just over 2.6 points.
The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fatty fish a week as part of a heart-healthy diet. Fish oil supplements can also be purchased over the counter.
For centuries, tea has been used medicinally in East Asian cultures. Green tea is known for its high levels of antioxidants, and it may have a blood pressure-lowering effect as well. A 2020 meta-analysis showed that short-term green tea supplementation lowered BP by about 1.2 points.
Green tea can be consumed as a tea or extracts can be taken as a supplement. Note that green tea extract has been associated with liver injury in some people, and may interact with medications.
Substances to avoid
It’s important to eat a variety of nutritious foods as part of a heart-healthy diet to keep hypertension at bay. You should also know what kind of substances might raise blood pressure. The following nutrients and supplements should be minimised or avoided if you have high blood pressure:
- High levels of salt
- Processed foods and meats
- Supplements such as liquorice and ephedra (also known as ma huang)
Complementary lifestyle changes to try
A healthy, nutritious diet is one way to lower blood pressure, but the following lifestyle habits may also help you lower your blood pressure:
- Getting enough quality sleep
- Stress management
- Yoga and relaxation techniques
High blood pressure is a serious condition that increases your risk of cardiovascular disease. Fortunately, blood pressure control is not out of your hands. Interventions including nutritional supplementation can help lower BP. Several herbs and supplements have some evidence of lowering blood pressure, but the preferred way to get these nutrients is to eat a varied diet.
A word of wellness
While herbs and supplements may seem like an attractive option, know that they can have risks just like medications. There is also far less oversight into their purity, adverse effects, and interactions compared to FDA-approved medications. Proven strategies like exercise and diet have a great deal of evidence behind them for their effectiveness, and their health benefits go beyond lowering blood pressure.
This story first appeared on www.verywellhealth.com
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Answer: If you are looking to lower your blood pressure in a matter of hours to days, proven medications are your best bet. While dietary changes and supplements might help lower blood pressure, they take weeks or months to have an effect.
Answer: Some herbs and supplements may interact with blood pressure medication. For example, green tea extract can affect the absorption of medications. Always check with your healthcare provider before adding any supplements to your diet.
Answer: Staying hydrated and preventing dehydration can help prevent low blood pressure. However, hydration will not lower your blood pressure.