Evidence-Based Alternatives For High Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is a measurement of the force against the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps blood through your body.
Blood pressure readings are given as two numbers. The top number is called the systolic blood pressure. The bottom number is called the diastolic blood pressure.
One or both of these numbers can be too high.
- Normal blood pressure is < or = to 120/80 mmHg
- High blood pressure is > 140/90 mmHg
- If your blood pressure numbers are between 120/80 and 140/90, it is called pre-hypertension.
Hypertension can lead to a heart attack, stroke, heart disease, kidney failure and eye problems.
Risk factors include obesity, drinking too much alcohol, smoking, and family history.
One of the most dangerous aspects of hypertension is that it is often silent. If you don’t get your blood pressure checked, you may not know it is high.
In fact, nearly one-third of people who have high blood pressure don’t know it.
If your blood pressure is extremely high, you may experience:
- Vision problems
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Irregular heartbeat
- Pounding in your chest, neck or ears
One or more of these blood pressure medicines are often used to treat high blood pressure:
- Diuretics help your kidneys remove sodium from your body so your blood vessels don’t retain as much fluid
- Beta-blockers make the heart beat at a slower rate and with less force
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors) relax your blood vessels
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers relax your blood vessels
- Calcium channel blockers relax blood vessels by stopping calcium from entering cells.
Some common side effects of high blood pressure medicines include:
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Erection problems
- Feeling nervous
- Feeling tired, weak, drowsy, or a lack of energy
- Nausea or vomiting
- Skin rash
There are a number of evidence-based alternatives for managing hypertension:
Ginger has a number of therapeutic properties. As an anti-hypertensive, it can affect calcium channels and result in relaxation of blood vessels.
CoQ10 has been shown to improve the thickness of the heart ventricles and diastolic function. The therapeutic dose is 200 mg/day.
A meta-analysis of 31 placebo-controlled trials on 1356 subjects examined the effects of omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil on blood pressure and found a statistically significant dose-response effect, especially in those with atherosclerotic disease or hypercholesterolemia.
The therapeutic dose is 3-6g/day.
The Mediterranean Diet
Intakes of olive oil, vegetables, and fruit were significantly inversely associated with both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, whereas cereals, meat and meat products, and alcohol were positively associated with arterial blood pressure.
Moderate to intense exercise has favorable effects on blood pressure and left ventricular hypertrophy. Exercise improves endothelium-dependent vasorelaxation through an increase in the release of nitric oxide.
Acupuncture was found to increase endogenous opioids (“feel good chemicals”) and result in a significant decrease in blood pressure.
Another study found that acupuncture worked via a suppressive hemodynamic effect related to changes in plasma renin activity.
Pharmacological treatment has limitations resulting from drug side effects, costs, and patient compliance. Acupuncture is a viable alternative.
The regular practice of Transcendental Meditation may have the potential to reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure by ∼4.7 and 3.2 mm Hg, respectively.
Summary of Evidence-Based Alternatives For High Blood Pressure
- Ginger: 1 g, 1-3x/day (I use it as part of a daily Berry/Kale/Banana Smoothie)
- CoQ10: 200 mg/day
- Fish Oil: 3-6 g/day
- Mediterranean Diet
- Exercise 3-5x/week at moderate intensity
- Acupuncture: A course of 8 sessions
- Meditation: 15-20 minutes daily