According to the American Heart Association nearly 1/3 of the adults (people over 18) have high blood pressure but nearly 1/3 of those don’t know they are sick. This is because high blood pressure is a silent killer, with little to no symptoms. Current guidelines for blood pressure are: normal is below 120/80, prehypertension is between 120/80 and 139/89 and hypertention is 140/80 or greater. A further distinction is made for those who have blood pressure greater than 160/100 as stage 2 hypertension. (1)
Although doctors can’t identify a definitive cause in 95% of people diagnosed with hypertension, they do know of lifestyle choices that can be modified and which will result in a decrease in blood pressure measurements. These lifestyle modifications are the first in a line of alternative treatments for hypertension. (2) The first lifestyle choice is attaining a normal weight. The greater your body mass, the more pressure exerted on the arterial walls and more oxygen that is required to feed the tissues of the body. By reducing your weight to normal limits you will be able to effect a significant change in your blood pressure.
Activity level is another factor that impacts blood pressure. A lack of activity will increase your heart rate because the muscle is “out of shape” and requires more work to perform the same activity. This forces the heart to work harder with each contraction, which subsequently impacts the pressure in the arterial system.
Researchers have also found that sodium intake, tobacco smoke, stress and alcohol consumption all have an impact on blood pressure. Chemicals in the tobacco can damage the artery walls, excessive sodium will increase the amount of fluid retained in the body, stress increases blood pressure and alcohol intake increases the risk of heart disease.
Two factors over which we have no control is age and family history. As we age blood pressure will increase – but if you start with a lower number the amount it raises will be lower. Hypertension also ‘runs in families’ so if you have a family history it is important to watch the other factors with dilegence to reduce your overall risk.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a supplement that has had some research to show that it has helped reduce blood pressure in certain circumstances. After 12 weeks in a double blind study of 83 people there was a mean reduction in systolic (top number) of 17.8 points. (3)
Garlic is another supplement that has been studied but should only be used under the supervision of a qualified health practitioner. Garlic can thin the blood and can also interact with other drugs.
The herb Hawthorn is often used in traditional herbal medicine and found in studies to reduce blood pressure in 71% of the patients. Fish oil, folic acid, calcium and magnesium round out the remainder of the herbal and mineral supplements that have had positive benefits for people who are seeking alternative treatments for high blood pressure.
One of the simplest means of lower your blood pressure is to also eat a healthy diet. Supplements are a wonderful adjunct to a healthy diet but should never replace it. Eat raw fruits and vegetables, cut back on total fat and cholesterol, eat more raw nuts and poultry while cutting back on red meat and sweets.
If you find that stress is a significant factor in your hypertension it is important to learn stress reducing techniques such as relaxation, meditation and exercise. Using exercise to reduce your stress will address two factors at the same time and improve your overall health.
There are alternative treatments for high blood pressure which are effective and efficient while making little to no dent in your monthly budget. Subtracting the cost of high processed foods, alcohol, tobacco and medication from your budget leaves more than enough to pay for fruits, vegetables and a healthy well-balanced diet.