Popping a vitamin pill for good health may seem like a simple method to supply your body with essential nutrients. However, be wary of the health risks it can invite over time. Even though rare, the consumption of certain vitamins can affect your health adversely if you have conditions like high blood pressure.
Vitamins are organic compounds that are pivotal in the normal functioning of your body. Naturally, people believe the best way to fight any kind of deficiency is by increasing their intake of natural sources of vitamins or including supplements in their diets. Despite how safe and beneficial they may sound, vitamins, supplements and medicinal herbs should only be consumed after consulting a medical practitioner.
What is high blood pressure?
The American Heart Association defines high blood pressure or hypertension as a condition when the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels is consistently too high. Excessive pressure on the arteries can damage the elasticity of arterial walls, decreasing blood flow to the heart, and eventually leading to heart failure.
Maintaining normal blood pressure is pivotal for the proper flow of blood from the heart to various organs in your body. Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg).
Systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure
Your blood pressure reading comprises two parts — systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Systolic blood pressure, which forms the upper half of the reading, measures the force of blood in your arteries when the heart beats. Meanwhile, diastolic blood pressure, the lower half of the reading, measures the pressure in your arteries when the heart rests between beats.
According to the Mayo Clinic, if you have a reading of 130/80 mmHg or higher, you may have high blood pressure. In a healthy human, the normal systolic blood pressure should be less than 120 mmHg and normal diastolic blood pressure should be less than 80 mmHg.
Symptoms of high blood pressure
Most often, high blood pressure is a silent condition that exists without any visible symptoms. However, there are a few signs you can look out for. Chest pain, dizziness, difficulty in breathing, nausea, severe headache and blurred vision are some common indicators.
A very high blood pressure, if ignored, can result in severe complications of the heart. The Word Health Organization reports that hypertension is a major cause of premature death worldwide and around 46% of adults with the condition are unaware that they have it.
What causes high blood pressure
Excessive alcohol or tobacco consumption, physical inactivity, high-salt diet, excess weight or lack of quality sleep can trigger high blood pressure. You can manage it naturally by making lifestyle changes.
Routine tests are crucial to help monitor blood pressure. Don’t hesitate to consult a physician if you note persistently high blood pressure levels.
Which vitamins affect blood pressure
While the intake of certain vitamins, supplements and herbs reduces blood pressure, some can also adversely affect it. Avoid these in your diet if you are at risk of high blood pressure.
Vitamin E plays a crucial role in your body’s defence mechanism by strengthening your immune system. A fat-soluble nutrient, it acts as an antioxidant that protects our cells from the damage caused by free radicals. Even though vitamin E is important for your body, people with high blood pressure should consume it with caution.
According to the US-based health agency, National Institutes of Health (NIH), high doses of vitamin E supplements may reduce the ability of your body to form clots after an injury. It can also lead to bleeding in the brain known as hemorrhagic stroke. This might increase risk factors for those taking blood thinners and other medicines for high blood pressure.
An excess of vitamin D supplements can lead to a serious condition called hypervitaminosis D. According to Medical News Today, this can lead to a rise in the calcium levels in your blood, causing hypercalcemia. It can trigger complications like high blood pressure, heart arrhythmias, fatigue and muscle weakness.
Though rare, vitamin D toxicity is a potentially dangerous condition. Hence, it is wise to consult a healthcare professional before starting vitamin D supplements.
Vitamin K is important to improve cardiovascular health. It plays a crucial role in your body’s haemostasis, blood clotting mechanism and bone mechanism. However, this vitamin can interact with blood-thinning medications and cause heart-related complications.
The Cleveland Clinic has examined in detail how vitamin K can be dangerous. For instance, if you take warfarin, an anticoagulant medicine, ensure there is no sudden spike in the levels of vitamin K by regulating your intake. Otherwise, it may decrease the effectiveness of the medicine.
According to a study published in the National Library of Medicine, too much vitamin K can stop warfarin from working correctly and can increase the risk of a blood clot, heart attack, or stroke.
A perennial herb famed for its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, Arnica montana is used to treat conditions like swelling, inflammation, bruises and burns. While arnica is generally safe when used topically, it can cause health issues if orally ingested in excessive quantities.
According to Mount Sinai, a hospital network in the United States, arnica can cause dizziness, tremors and heart irregularities. The Cleveland Clinic also notes that the herb contains a toxin called helenalin, which can be deadly if taken in excess. It can also cause high blood pressure.
Asian ginseng or Panax ginseng is a perennial plant that predominantly grows in the mountains of East Asia. The root of this produces ginseng, which is popularly believed to help manage stress, increase immunity and boosts brain function.
However, an article published in the National Library of Medicine notes that the effects of ginseng on blood pressure are contradicting. While some studies claim ginseng helps lower blood pressure, others say it can contribute to elevated blood pressure, reports Mount Sinai. Hence, it is advised not to consume ginseng without consulting a physician if you have cardiovascular diseases or other risk factors.
This herbal supplement is used in the treatment of respiratory infections, ulcers and digestive issues due to its anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. The NIH warns of increased blood pressure levels and decreased potassium levels if liquorice is consumed in excess.
Consult your physician before taking liquorice, especially if you have heart disease, hypertension, chronic kidney disease, or other serious health problems.
Caffeine, found in tea and coffee plants, can stimulate your central nervous system, thereby increasing your energy. The Mayo Clinic observes that the intake of caffeine can result in a short, yet dramatic increase in blood pressure levels.
However, Healthline notes that regular intake of coffee does not cause this temporary increase. Research indicates that this may be due to the caffeine tolerance the body develops due to the habit.
Guarana is a herb that is often found in health drinks. Guarana has many benefits, such as being rich in antioxidants, having antibacterial properties and helping reduce fatigue. However, it contains caffeine, which is known to cause short-term increases in blood pressure by elevating one’s heart rate.
St John’s Wort
St John’s Wort is a shrub with yellow flowers and is believed to have been used by ancient Greeks for various diseases and conditions. It is primarily used in the treatment of depression, attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD) and conditions like insomnia, kidney and lung conditions.
According to the NIH, St John’s Wort can interact with heart medications and blood thinners to produce undesirable effects. While generally herbs are considered safe for ingestion, do remember to consult your physician before taking them, especially orally.
A supplement that comes from the extract of the fruit or peel of bitter oranges is used in traditional Chinese medicine for indigestion, nausea and constipation. Today, the bitter orange extract is also used in athletic performance supplements and for weight loss. Bitter orange extract is commonly used as a substitute for ephedra, another herb that is used in dietary supplements.
As per the NIH, the presence of ephedra in dietary supplements is known to cause high blood pressure and is linked to heart attack and stroke. This prompted the US Food and Drug Administration to ban the use of it in dietary supplements. However, the cardiovascular effect of bitter orange extract alone or combined with substances like caffeine and green tea is inconclusive. While some studies have shown that bitter orange supplements raise blood pressure and heart rate, others show it is not applicable for common doses. People with a known history of heart disease should never consume bitter orange supplements without medical consultation.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Answer: According to 'Medical News Today', too much vitamin D in your body can cause abnormally high levels of calcium in the blood. It can, in turn, cause high blood pressure and can affect bones, tissues, and other organs if left untreated.
Answer: A study published in the National Library of Medicine concludes that neither baseline multivitamin use nor time-varying multivitamin use is associated with the risk of developing hypertension.
Answer: Excess amounts of Vitamin E, D and K are known to cause high blood pressure.
Answer: The intake of Vitamin C is known to reduce blood pressure.