Managing Hypertension

Managing-HypertensionHypertension, or high blood pressure, is the most common cardiovascular disease1 and it can have deadly health consequences if untreated. It increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney failure, and other serious health problems.

Description of Condition

Normal adult blood pressure is 120/80 mm Hg and blood pressure as low as 105/60 mm Hg is beneficial for cardiovascular health.2 High blood pressure is a repeatedly elevated systolic pressure of 140 or higher OR a diastolic pressure of 90 or higher.3 If your blood pressure numbers are 120/80 or higher, but below 140/90, you have pre-hypertension.

Hypertension typically has no symptoms, but if it is extremely high, it can sometimes cause headache, shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain, heart palpitations, and nose bleeds.

Conventional Treatments Used

For prehypertension, conventional treatment consists of lifestyle changes, such as eating more produce; lowering salt; exercising 30 minutes a day; reducing smoking, alcohol, and stress; and losing weight.

For hypertension, conventional treatment consists of medication. The main types of drugs used are diuretics, angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), and calcium channel blockers. Often, a single blood pressure drug is not enough to control blood pressure and two or more drugs from different classes are prescribed.

Many hypertension drugs may cause nutrient depletions that can actually interfere with their ability to lower blood pressure or that cause other adverse effects.4 Diuretics decrease potassium, magnesium, zinc, and coenzyme Q10, among other nutrients.4 Beta blockers reduce coenzyme Q10, and ACE inhibitors and ARBs reduce zinc.4

Top Treatment Protocols

There are a variety of integrative treatments that reduce hypertension more safely that drugs.

Garlic reduces blood pressure in patients with hypertension by an average of 8.4 mm Hg systolic and 7.3 mm Hg diastolic.4 While raw cloves will work,4 an extract made from aged garlic seems to be particularly effective and tolerable. A recent study found that 480 mg daily of an aged garlic extract (Kyolic) decreased systolic blood pressure by an average of 11.8 mm Hg in patients who were on medication but still hypertensive.

Ground flaxseed contains fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, and effectively lowers blood pressure. In one recent trial, 110 patients with peripheral artery disease ate a variety of foods that contained 30 g of ground flaxseed or placebo each day for six months.5 At the end of the trial, on average, systolic blood pressure dropped 10 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure dropped 7 mm Hg in the flaxseed group. Patients who started with a systolic blood pressure over 140 mm Hg achieved a significant reduction of 15 mm Hg in systolic and 7 mm Hg in diastolic from flaxseed ingestion.

Coenzyme Q10 is a vitamin-like compound that consistently and significantly lowers blood pressure in patients with hypertension. These patients have a six-fold higher likelihood of coenzyme Q10 deficiency compared to people with normal blood pressure.4

Doses of 120 to 225 mg per day are typically necessary to adequately increase blood levels.4 The average reduction in blood pressure is about 15 mm Hg systolic and 10 mmHg diastolic after about four weeks.4

What to Try First

According to top integrative hypertension specialist, Dr. Mark Houston, MD, of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine: “Many of the natural compounds in food, nutraceutical supplements, or minerals function in a similar fashion to a specific class of antihypertensive drugs.”6 Although the potency of these natural compounds may be less than the antihypertensive drug, says Houston, when used in combination with good nutrition and lifestyle modifications, the blood pressure lowering effect of natural compounds is additive or synergistic.

Because of the additive or synergistic effects when it comes to natural therapies, it’s best to try all three home remedies together for best results.

• Garlic. Take one 240 mg capsule of aged garlic extract twice a day or eat 4 fresh cloves daily.

Flaxseed. Start with 5 grams of ground flaxseed and slowly work up to 30 grams per day. You can substitute oat bran, beta-glucan, or psyllium for some of the ground flaxseed. Take with plenty of water.

Coenzyme Q10. Take 60 to 150 mg twice a day.

Remember that dietary therapies and exercise are also powerful tools when it comes to treating high blood pressure. The most important dietary goal is increasing fruits and vegetables, while the most important exercise goal is getting some aerobic exercise every day.


Precautions/Drug Interactions

Aged garlic extract is generally safe and well tolerated,7 while fresh or raw garlic can cause a burning sensation in the mouth or stomach, heartburn, gas, nausea, vomiting, body odor, and diarrhea, and may also increase the risk of bleeding.8 Use caution when taking blood thinning medications.7,8

Flaxseed is generally safe, although adding it too quickly to the diet might cause gastrointestinal side effects such as bloating, gas, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, stomachache, and nausea.9 There is some weak evidence that flaxseed might interact with drugs including acetaminophen, ketoprofen, furosemide, metoprolol, anticoagulants, birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, and diabetes drugs.9

CoQ10 is generally safe and well-tolerated, although it may rarely cause mild side effects including stomach upset, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or allergic skin rashes in some people.10 There are no reported drug interactions.10

Note that because these natural remedies can decrease blood pressure, taking them along with medications for high blood pressure might cause your blood pressure to go too low. Check your blood pressure regularly and inform your doctor that you are starting on natural treatments.

It may be possible to decrease your dose or eliminate one or more medications altogether. If possible, work directly with a physician who has been trained in integrative or natural medicine.

1. WebMD. Hypertension.

2. WHO. Global Brief on Hypertension. 2013.

3. World Heart Federation. Hypertension.

4. J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich). 2013 Oct;15(12):931-37.

5. Hypertension. 2013 Dec;62(6):1081-9.

6. J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich). 2013 Oct;15(10):752-7.

7. J Nutr. 2006 Mar;136(3 Suppl):793S-795S.

8. NIH. Medline Plus. Garlic.

9. NIH. Medline Plus. Flaxseed.

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UHN Staff

University Health News is produced by the award-winning editors and authors of Belvoir Media Group’s Health & Wellness Division. Headquartered in Norwalk, Conn., with editorial offices in Florida, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, … Read More

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