We covered the basics of high blood pressure regulation and hypertension in the last issue of Health Bytes. Now we will explore some possible alternatives to treat this condition.
Prior to addressing what can reduce blood pressure, we should briefly address often over looked contributing factors to high blood pressure.
Other than a poor diet, obesity, certain diseases, sedentary lifestyle, and a genetic predisposition, there are several contributing factors to hypertension. Lifestyle factors, environmental factors, and stress management can all play their part. Adjusting and addressing each of these factors can play a strong part in the non-pharmacological treatment of high blood pressure.
A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology, depicted the hypertensive effect of chronic alcohol consumption. Studies from the New England Journal of Medicine correlate nicotine consumption from cigarettes and smokeless tobacco with an elevation in blood pressure. Even the daily consumption of coffee has been implicated in hypertension, as reported in the American Journal of Cardiology.
Researchers from the Lancet stated back in 1976, that cadmium toxicity has been shown to independently increase blood pressure. Other researchers reported similar effects from lead in the American Journal of Epidemiology. The best safe guard against lead and cadmium toxicity is to remain acutely aware of their sources and avoid them when possible. Lead can be found in municipal water supplies, household lead pipes, and shooting ranges. Cadmium sources include industrial paints, and cigarettes.
How an individual handles stress can be a strong factor in blood pressure regulation. Hans Selye, one of the first major researchers on stress, described what happens in the body during the fight or flight response. He found that any problem, imagined or real can initiate the fight or flight response, which results in an increase in heart rate, breathing rate, muscle tension, and blood pressure. The journal Psychosomatic Medicine, and the Medical Journal of Australia, have clinically proven that stress reduction techniques from various disciplines of mind/body medicine such as biofeedback, meditation, yoga, and relaxation exercises, have all shown success in reducing blood pressure.
Exercise, diet, supplements, and certain herbs can produce a hypotensive effect.
It has been known for quite some time that weight control reduces the risk of high blood pressure. Not only does physical activity help with weight control but moderate exercise, specifically aerobics, helps lower blood pressure directly. Back in 1990, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association stated that those who engage in regular aerobic activity may not need medication for mild hypertension.
Diet can be a powerful strategy to combat hypertension. Consuming a diet as close to the diet utilized in the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) clinical trial would be a great first defense. Such a diet is rich in fiber, high in potassium, calcium, and magnesium from vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, low fat dairy or dairy substitutes fortified to match the nutritional profile of dairy, low in sodium and saturated fat, with total fat from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated sources totaling 30% of calories, and conducive to weight loss. Reducing sodium may not just be limited for the treatment of high blood pressure. In the December 1, 1999 issue of the Journal of the American Medical association, researchers studied the relationship between dietary sodium and cardiovascular disease risk in overweight and non-overweight individuals. They concluded that high sodium intake is strongly and independently associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and all cause mortality in overweight individuals.
Coenzyme Q10, magnesium, calcium, potassium, L-taurine, garlic, hawthorn, Coleus Forskohlii, and maitake mushrooms have been found to produce hypotensive effects.
According to the research of Karl Folkers, a deficiency of coenzyme Q10 was found in 39% of patients with hypertension compared to 6% of those with normal blood pressure. Providing these patients with supplemental coenzyme Q10 for eight weeks resulted in a 10% or greater decrease in blood pressure in various double-blind studies from the text, Biomedical and Clinical Aspects of Coenzyme Q10. Vol. 5. Magnesium levels have been found to be consistently low in individuals with high blood pressure. In a study from the January 1983 British Medical Journal, supplemental magnesium lowered blood pressure in 19 out of 20 hypertensives.
Crossover clinical trials regarding the ability of magnesium to reduce blood pressure have been printed in the August and November 1998 Journal of Hypertension.
In 1994, in the American Journal of Hypertension, a study examined the possible hypotensive effects of calcium supplementation. After 14 weeks, the high calcium intake lowered systolic blood pressure by an average of 17 mmHg , and diastolic blood pressure by 11 mmHg.
The mineral potassium was also found to reduce blood pressure. Research in the British Medical Journal revealed that moderate oral potassium supplements are associated with a long term reduction in blood pressure in patients who have mild high blood pressure.
The non-essential amino acid L-Taurine may exhibit hypotensive properties. The Japan Heart Journal depicted research showing the correlation between supplemental taurine and reduced blood pressure levels.
Garlic has proven its ability to reduce blood pressure. One fine example in a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial conducted by general practitioners, printed in the August British Journal of Clinical Practice, depicted a reduction in diastolic and systolic blood pressure values after 12 weeks of supplementation with a specific garlic product.
According to the July American Journal of Chinese Medicine, Hawthorn (crataegus oxycantha) may have a mild blood pressure lowering effect.
Forskolin, an extract from the herb Coleus Forskohlii, which has a long history of use in Ayurvedic systems of medicine, may yield hypotensive effects due to its stimulation of a specific cellular regulating chemical, which in turn may result in relaxation of the arteries, as was originally reported in the March Journal of Ethnopharmacology and the July Journal of Cyclic Nucleotide Research.
The November issue of Nutrition Review, discussed the functional properties of edible mushrooms. One mushroom in particular, maitake (Grifola frondosa), has shown great promise as a hypotensive in animal studies in Tokyo.
Alternatives to the pharmacological treatment of high blood pressure are currently available. However, it is important to note that all of the aforementioned substances should be discussed with your primary care physician prior to ingestion. Herbs for example, can potentate the action of antihypertensive medication, promoting complications.