8 Natural Approaches to Lowering Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a common condition that requires the heart to pump harder than desired due to increased pressure and stiffness in the arteries. Affecting hundreds of millions of people worldwide — one in every four adults — this condition often causes no symptoms, leaving many with high blood pressure undiagnosed. For this reason, hypertension has been called “the silent killer”. High blood pressure is known to increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure and kidney disease, especially if left untreated.
Blood pressure consists of two numbers, traditionally measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). The first number is the systolic blood pressure and the second is diastolic pressure. Blood pressure is expressed as 120/80 (systolic/diastolic).
Systolic blood pressure: the pressure your heart exerts on your arteries when pumping.
Diastolic blood pressure: the pressure in the arteries when the heart is at rest.
Those with high blood pressure need to be under the care of their personal physician.
Blood Pressure Interpretation:
Normal blood pressure: <120 / 80
Elevated Blood Pressure: >120-129/ 80-89
Hypertension (Stage 1): 130-139/ 80-99
Hypertension (Stage 2): Over 140/90
*Values are different for children
What Causes Hypertension?
There are many causes of hypertension, including lack of physical activity, poor diet, overweight, obesity, insulin resistance, prediabetes, diabetes, kidney disease, certain medications, and genetics. However, it may occur as a consequence of aging without any other specific cause present.
Can High Blood Pressure Be Managed?
If you are in the elevated or stage-one blood pressure range, lifestyle changes may be adequate to help normalize your blood pressure — there are times when people with newly diagnosed hypertension can be treated solely with improvements in diet and exercise. However, this is usually reserved for those who have few risk factors and are dedicated and willing to make immediate lifestyle changes, including home blood pressure monitoring with a digital blood pressure monitor.
Diets rich in vegetables, nuts, and fresh fruits can be beneficial because they provide potassium, magnesium, and calcium, all of which help bring balance and health to the circulatory system.
Conventional Blood Pressure Therapy
Thanks to the advancement of science and the pharmaceutical industry, physicians and patients have been able to treat high blood pressure and, subsequently, reduce the dangers associated with it. Over the last several decades, high blood pressure medicines have been used as the primary means of reducing elevated values.
Below is a list of commonly used blood pressure medications and the class to which they belong. I have used all of them for my patients at one time or another. While there is little question about their effectiveness, side effects are a concern to many. In most instances, however, the benefits outweigh the risks. Frequently, a person will take two or more medications from the various classes in order to control their blood pressure.
Commonly Used Blood Pressure Medications
Beta-Blockers (Atenolol, Metoprolol, Carvedilol, Sotalol)
Calcium Channel Blockers (Amlodipine, Diltiazem, Nifedipine)
Diuretics (Hydrochlorothiazide, Triamterene, Chlorthalidone, Spironolactone) or “water pills”
Ace Inhibitors (Lisinopril, Benazepril, Enalapril, Ramipril, Fosinopril)
Angiotensin Receptor Blockers (Olmesartan, Losartan, Irbesartan)
Natural Therapies for Blood Pressure
Diet rich in vegetables and fruits
Stress reduction and routine exercise
Meditation and relaxation techniques, including prayer
Supplements That Can Help Lower Blood Pressure
Below we will discuss supplements that have been shown to help lower blood pressure. If you are on prescription medications, consult with your personal physician prior to starting a supplement as adjustments to your medications may be necessary.
Beetroot Juice Extract
Many vegetables, including beets, contain a high concentration of nitrates, which when consumed, can be reduced to nitrites by bacteria commonly present in the human mouth. The nitrites are dissolved in saliva, swallowed, and absorbed into the blood where they are converted into nitrous oxide, a potent vasodilator of blood vessels. This provides the blood pressure-lowering effect. Beetroot juice and its extract, specifically, contain a high concentration of inorganic NO3.
A 2012 study in The British Journal of Nutrition compared intake of beetroot to a placebo. The results showed a significant reduction of blood pressure when at least 100 grams of beetroot was consumed. A 2013 study in the Journal of Nutrition showed that consumption of beetroot juice, rich in inorganic nitrates, resulted in a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure. In total, 254 people were included in the studies reviewed.
A 2014 study evaluated the effect of beetroot supplementation in overweight subjects. Those who took the concentrate saw more than a seven-point reduction in their blood pressure. Further, a 2016 study in the European Journal of Nutrition showed that beetroot supplementation helped improve endothelial function, which likely explains the mechanism by which blood pressure is improved.
Lastly, a 2017 meta-analysis study in Advances in Nutrition showed beet juice consumption resulted in an overall reduction of blood pressure values by 3.55/1.22 mmHg. This can play an important role in overall vascular health.
Suggested dose: As directed on the label.
Co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10), also known as ubiquinone, is a naturally occurring antioxidant nutrient required for life. Coenzyme Q10 is necessary for cells to generate energy. This is done, primarily, in a part of the cell called the mitochondria, the cellular “powerplant” that generates energy in the body.
Since the heart is the most active of all organs, it produces and requires the most CoQ10 in order to meet its metabolic demands. However, in those with cardiac disease, higher levels of CoQ10 are required to help optimize function.
A 2007 study in the Journal of Human Hypertension concluded, “… that coenzyme Q10 has the potential in hypertensive patients to lower systolic blood pressure by up to 17 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by up to 10 mm Hg without significant side effects.” The study was a meta-analysis that looked at 12 trials and included 362 patients.
A 2015 double-blind, randomized controlled study of male Japanese athletes who took 600 mg of CoQ10 per day saw a significant reduction in diastolic blood pressure in those athletes after 10 days.
Mayo Clinic also backs use of CoQ10 for high blood pressure as did a 2015 study in the Annals of Medicine. However, a 2016 study in Cochrane reviews did not see significant benefit in lowering blood pressure.
The effect might be nuanced. A 2018 study which looked at 17 randomized controlled trials which included 684 participants concluded, “CoQ10 supplementation may result in reduction in Systolic Blood Pressure (SBP) levels, but did not affect Diastolic Blood Pressure (DBP) levels among patients with metabolic diseases.”
Suggested dose: 100 mg to 300 mg daily. Up to 600 mg may be beneficial.
Hawthorn berries are small fruits that grow on shrubs or trees that belong to the crataegus genus. They have been used for medicinal purposes for hundreds of years and can be traced back to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). These berries have been used for heart health, blood pressure-lowering, and also for digestive issues. Hawthorn berries are loaded with antioxidants, specifically polyphenols, which also have anti-inflammatory properties.
A 2002 study of 36 people with high blood pressure showed that 500 mg of hawthorn berry could help lower diastolic (the lower number) blood pressure. However, this study did not show a benefit in lowering systolic blood pressure, the top number.