Natural Treatments for High Blood Pressure, Which Ones Work
Although it seems that doctors are quick to prescribe medications to treat high blood pressure, the American Heart Association (AHA) has announced that alternative natural treatments that include various types of exercise and breathing therapy are effective treatments for hypertension. Which natural treatments are best according to the AHA, and what other options do you have?
How to treat high blood pressure without drugs
The AHA has issued a statement noting that people who have high blood pressure (greater than 120/80 mmHg) and those who cannot tolerate conventional medications or don’t respond well to them can get help from alternative natural treatments. Here is what the authors found after they reviewed data published in 2006 to 2011 associated with behavioral treatments (e.g., biofeedback, meditation), noninvasive procedures and devices (e.g., acupuncture), and three types of exercise: aerobic, weight training, and isometrics.
- Biofeedback and transcendental meditation may help reduce blood pressure modestly. Other forms of meditation did not illustrate enough benefit to support their use.
- Use of yoga and other relaxation and stress-reduction techniques did not demonstrate enough clinical evidence to recommend them at this time
- Device-assisted breathing techniques (e.g., RESPeRATE) were helpful in lowering blood pressure when patients practiced for 15 minutes three to four times a week
- Acupuncture did not show sufficient evidence to recommend its use for high blood pressure
- Aerobic, strength training, and isometric exercises all helped lower blood pressure. Patients who practiced isometric hand grip exercises for four weeks showed an average of 10 percent decline in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
The AHA emphasized that patients should still continue using proven ways to lower their blood pressure, which include weight management, not smoking, consuming only a moderate amount or no alcohol, eating a low-sodium diet, and staying physically active.
According to Robert D. Brook, MD, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and the chair of the review panel for the study, most alternative treatments reduce systolic blood pressure by 2 to 10 mmHg compared with medications, which can achieve a 10 to 15 mmHg decline. “So, alternative approaches can be added to a treatment regimen after patients discuss their goals with their doctors,” he noted.
Other alternative natural treatments for high blood pressure
Although the current study did not review the use of herbal remedies or dietary measures, other researchers have addressed these possibilities. A previous study from two cardiologists (Kevin Woolf, MD and John Bisognano, MD, PhD) at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) reported on several non-drug options that can help hypertension, plus other research has uncovered promising possibilities.
- Beetroot juice: Several studies have shown that drinking beetroot juice can reduce blood pressure by an average of 10 mmHg. Beets are a rich source of nitrate, a substance which, when converted to nitric oxide in the body, helps relax the blood vessels and thus improve blood flow.
- DASH: The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet is highly recommended for prevention and management of high blood pressure. DASH is a low-salt, high-fiber eating plan rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Hawthorn: This herbal remedy may provide a slight drop in blood pressure. Hawthorn is also valued as an herb that helps heart health.
- Coenzyme Q10: This antioxidant is found in every cell in the body and is involved in energy production.
- Potassium: Although you can take potassium as a supplement, getting this mineral through diet is recommended. Patients who follow DASH should get lots of potassium, since it is found in fruits and vegetables.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: In another study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, reviewers noted that 3,000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids taken daily caused a “significant decrease in blood pressure, especially systolic blood pressure, in older and hypertensive subjects.”
The AHA has stated that certain alternative treatments for high blood pressure can be helpful, while previous research provides support for other treatment options as well. If you have high blood pressure, you can turn to a variety of natural treatments to bring your pressure down, but be sure to discuss your choices with your physician.
Brook RD et al. Beyond medications and diet: alternative approaches to lowering blood pressure: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Hypertension 2013 April 22
Cabo J et al. Omega-3 fatty acids and blood pressure. British Journal of Nutrition 2012 Jun; 107 (Suppl 2): S195-200
Ghosh SM et al. Enhanced vasodilator activity of nitrite in hypertension. Hypertension 2013 Apr. 15