High blood pressure, known as hypertension, is known as the ‘silent killer’ because most people can’t tell when their blood pressure is high. Elevated blood pressure can lead to a greatly increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and other serious illnesses. Along with high cholesterol and smoking, hypertension is one of the most serious causes of atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries.
Keeping blood pressure under control is essential for long-term good cardiovascular health. Two studies involving natural therapies for reducing blood pressure were recently conducted. These studies revealed that nutrients, such as calcium, vitamin D, and antioxidants help lower blood pressure.
The Calcium/Vitamin D Connection
When we think of calcium, we automatically think of strong bones. One of the most important aspects of calcium is to prevent and treat osteoporosis. What many people don’t realize is that, according to a new German study, calcium and vitamin D supplementation is also effective in reducing high blood pressure.
In this study, which appeared in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, researchers found that calcium and vitamin D supplementation is effective in reducing blood pressure, including pregnancy-induced hypertension. In addition, they recognized that calcitropic (vitamin D-related) hormones are associated with blood pressure. Therefore, the researchers sought to determine if short-term supplementation with calcium and vitamin D might improve blood pressure.
Working with women over the age of 70, researchers found that when the women took calcium and vitamin D, they successfully reduced their systolic blood pressure and reduced levels of parathyroid hormone. (Parathyroid hormone regulates the body’s calcium levels. Too much of this hormone can result in calcium being withdrawn from bones.) The study reiterated the fact that calcium should always be taken with vitamin D because the body can’t absorb calcium without it. In addition, the study showed that inadequate calcium and vitamin D intake could play a contributory role in the progression of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease in elderly women.
According to Dr. Helmut W. Minne and colleagues from the Institute of Clinical Osteology in Hamburg, Germany, ‘A short-term supplementation with vitamin D and calcium is more effective in reducing blood pressure than calcium alone.’
Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, have found that a diet rich in the antioxidant vitamins C and E can help lower high blood pressure. Vitamins C and E are powerful antioxidants that protect against damaging natural substances called free radicals. Vitamin C fights free radicals in water and is complemented by vitamin E, which fights free radical destruction in the fatty regions of the body.
Dr. Nostratola D. Vaziri, the study’s leading author, and his team tested the theory that antioxidants might help reduce high blood pressure by protecting the body’s supply of nitric oxide, a molecule that relaxes blood vessels. During the study, they found that supplementing the diet with vitamins C and E raised levels of nitric oxide in the body. The study, published in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association, showed that although hypertension is a highly complex medical problem that has many causes, nitric oxide and oxidative stress are major contributors to the disease.
‘Antioxidants are powerful regulators of blood pressure, and our studies show that multiple types of these chemicals, found in a diet heavy in fruit and vegetables, could help mitigate high blood pressure,’ Vaziri said.
Millions of men and women suffer from high blood pressure. The discovery of natural alternatives for treating this prevalent condition offers even more reasons for the importance of supplementing with these important nutrients every day.