While normally doctors prescribe medication to treat hypertension, there are other ways to combat it including taking hypertension supplements. Along with diet and exercise, natural supplements can significantly decrease hypertension.
What Is Hypertension?
Hypertension is, quite simply, high blood pressure. According to recent estimates by the American Heart Association, one in three adults in the United States has hypertension.
Your blood pressure is based on two readings: systolic pressure (the first number) and diastolic pressure (the second number). The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute provides the following guidelines regarding blood pressure and hypertension:
- Normal: less than 120/80
- Prehypertension: 120-139/ or 80-89
- Hypertension Stage 1: 140-159/ or 90-99
- Hypertension Stage 2: 160+/ or 100+
What Is a Dietary Supplement?
Congress defined dietary supplements as something that is intended to supplement the diet and contains one or more of the following ingredients: vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, or other substances. Dietary supplements can be taken in the form of a pill, capsule, tablet or liquid.
Effective Hypertension Supplements
While changing your diet can significantly lower blood pressure, you have to be realistic. You won't always abide by your doctor's recommended plan, and sometimes your diet will lack essential vitamins. Fortunately, several supplements can fill any nutrient deficiencies in your diet and help lower your blood pressure:
- Coenzyme Q10: improves the function of the walls of blood vessels. According to the Mayo Clinic, "CoQ10 levels are reported to decrease with age and to be low in patients with some chronic diseases such as heart conditions."
- Calcium: strengthens the heart by improving heart muscle contractions. A study by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute revealed "a statistically significant decrease of systolic blood pressure with calcium supplementation."
- Magnesium: assimilates calcium into the body. The Office of Dietary Supplements advocates a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, citing a study by the Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board (Dietary Reference Intakes: Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamin D and Fluoride. National Academy Press. Washington, DC, 1999) that concluded that "epidemiologic evidence suggests that magnesium may play an important role in regulating blood pressure."
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: helps to dilate blood vessels. The University of Maryland Medical Center analyzed 17 clinical studies, which indicated that taking "three or more grams of fish oil daily can lead to significant reductions in blood pressure in individuals with untreated hypertension."
- Potassium: has been shown to help reduce hypertension. It comes in two forms: potassium citrate, which is found in foods such as peas and bananas, and potassium chloride, which must be taken as a dietary supplement, according to the Harvard Medical School. However, according to a study performed by St. George's Medical School in London (published in the April 2005 issue of Hypertension), both types have the same effect of lowering blood pressure. The bottom line: eat your fruits and vegetables.
- Vitamins C: a 500 mg daily supplement can significantly reduce high blood pressure, according to a study by Boston University School of Medicine and the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. It helps to dilate blood vessels and protect them from damage.
- Vitamin E: the Isfahan Cardiovascular Research Center conducted a study in which participants took 200 IU vitamin E tablets a day for 27 weeks, and concluded that the supplement "can be effective in mild hypertensive patients in the long term, probably due to nitric oxide, and improve their blood pressure status."
Hypertension supplements are available to purchase in many pharmacies and health stores such as Cardiovascular+Health GNC and The Vitamin Shoppe. Some companies manufacture products that contain combinations of the supplements above as well as other natural ingredients aimed at reducing blood pressure.
Herbal Supplements for Hypertension
Many believe that herbal supplements can lower blood pressure, although there is less scientific evidence to support their effectiveness. These supplements include:
- Garlic: thins the blood and discourages clot formation
- Hawthorne: berries that protect arterial walls and dilate blood vessels
- Rauwolfia serpentina: the most potent botanical for treating blood pressure, use in small doses according to label directions.
- Mistletoe: not just for Christmas, it can help lower blood pressure
- Coleus forskohlii: another herb that helps relieve hypertension
Please consult a qualified herbalist before taking herbal supplements. Do not discontinue hypertension medications unless directed by your physician. Some need to be tapered off gradually, while others may have adverse effects if taken with herbs. Please use caution and seek professional advice.
Traditional Chinese Medicine for Hypertension
For thousands of years, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has dictated that hypertension can be treated with a combination of herbs and acupuncture. The herbs are typically derived from stems, seeds, twigs and other parts of plants. Eat them, drink in the form of tea, or apply them to the body.
Hypertension Supplements to Avoid
Several herbs are suspected to increase blood pressure and should be avoided:
- Rosemary essential oil
Though hypertension supplements may help to reduce your blood pressure, you should always consult with a physician before taking any medication, herb, or supplement. Some supplements might interact with each other or other medication you are taking. While improving blood pressure naturally is ideal, some people may need prescribed medications to fully treat this health problem.