How to Treat Hypertension Naturally
Hypertension or high blood pressure is a chronic condition that can damage your heart in the long run if left untreated. It is also a risk factor in heart disease and stroke.
According to Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization, “One of the key risk factors for cardiovascular disease is hypertension – or raised blood pressure. Hypertension already affects one billion people worldwide, leading to heart attacks and strokes. Researchers have estimated that raised blood pressure currently kills nine million people every year.”
The World Health Organization estimated that in 2008, worldwide, approximately 40% of adults aged 25 and above had been diagnosed with hypertension. In fact the number of people affected by this chronic condition rose from 600 million in 1980 to 1 billion in 2008.
Taking blood pressure lowering medications can and will control the condition but like all drugs, they have adverse effects. Why risk it when you can safely prevent, treat and control hypertension naturally without using drugs?
Here are 6 ways on how to treat hypertension naturally.
1. Regular Exercise
Exercise has been long known to have immense health benefits: it’s not only good for heart health it also increases strength helping you prevent and fight age related muscle loss or sarcopenia if you’re a senior like me.
If you have high blood pressure or hypertension, regular exercise will also help to bring it down. In fact this 2013 Belgium study shows that about 150 minutes of moderate exercise such as brisk walking a week or 75 minutes of higher intensity exercise such as jogging improves both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
Another 2013 analysis on the National Runners’ and Walkers’ Health Study found that both moderate intensity exercise such as brisk walking and higher intensity exercise such as running provided the similar cardiovascular benefits, one of which is lowering of blood pressure and controlling hypertension.
A joint study by the Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Georgetown University Medical Center published in 2000, found that regularly performed aerobic exercise significantly lowers blood pressure in patients with essential hypertension. Mild to moderate intensity exercise may be more effective in lowering blood pressure than higher intensity exercises. They may also reduce antihypertensive medication requirements, cost, and medication – related side – effects, and improve quality of life.
Evidence also suggests that resistance training especially isometric handgrip exercises can lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. A mega analysis of 28 randomized controlled trials, involving 33 study groups and 1012 participants published in the November 2011 edition of Hypertension found that isometric handgrip training lowered blood pressure the most, followed by dynamic resistance training.
Examples of isometric handgrip exercises include ball squeezes, holds with athletic grippers and isometric holds using heavy dumbbells. Dynamic resistance exercise involves lifting and lowering the weight in a controlled fashion for a specified number of repetitions.
2. Reduce Salt Intake
Excessive salt intake has been linked to hypertension and increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
A 2010 study by the Queen Mary University of London suggested that at least 62% of strokes and 49% of coronary heart disease were a direct result from hypertension. The researchers warned that increasing evidence also suggests that a high salt intake may directly increase the risk of stroke, left ventricular hypertrophy, and renal disease; is associated with obesity through soft drink consumption; is related to renal stones and osteoporosis; is linked to the severity of asthma; and is probably a major cause of stomach cancer.
Another 2013 systematic review and meta-analysis also by the Queen Mary University of London saw researchers ploughing through 34 trials involving 3230 participants. The researchers found that a modest reduction in salt intake for four or more weeks causes significant and, from a population viewpoint, important falls in blood pressure in both hypertensive and normotensive individuals, irrespective of sex and ethnic group. These results support a reduction in population salt intake, which will lower population blood pressure and thereby reduce cardiovascular disease.
Apparently those who are sodium sensitive are more prone to hypertension. A 1997 Japanese study found that cardiovascular events occurred more frequently in patients with sodium-sensitive hypertension.
According to a 2015 study by the University of Maryland in Baltimore, it is estimated that 51% of folks with hypertension and 26% of people without hypertension are salt sensitive and genetics seem to play a role in this. Although the mechanisms underlying salt sensitivity are complex and not well understood, genetics can help to determine the blood response to salt intake. So far only a few genes have been found to be associated with salt-sensitive hypertension using candidate gene association studies.
If you have hypertension, reduce your sodium intake. Season your food with herbs and other spices instead of salt and see if it reduces your blood pressure.
3. Go Low Carb
Low carbohydrate diets have been proven effective in controlling and even reversing Type 2 diabetes, non fatty liver disease, obesity and insulin resistance. Now there is evidence to show that such diets are also effective for lowering blood pressure for those with hypertension.
A 2010 study originally done to compare the weight loss effects of the very low carbohydrate ketogenic diet and the drug Orlistat showed that those who followed the ketogenic diet experienced a healthy drop in blood pressure levels.
In the 48 week study, the abstract of which is found here, 146 obese or overweight participants were randomly divided into 2 groups: the 1st group was to follow the ketogenic diet with less than 20 grams of carbs a day while the 2nd group was to follow a low fat diet but given Orlistat 3 times a day. Body weight, blood pressure, fasting serum lipid, and glycemic parameters were measured. Overall results showed that systolic blood pressure dropped an average of 5.9 points among those on the low carb ketogenic diet group, compared with an increase of 1.5 points in the orlistat and low fat diet group.
One of the researchers, William S. Yancy, Jr., MD, an associate professor of medicine at Duke University Medical Center was surprised at the findings, “I expected the weight loss to be considerable with both therapies but we were surprised to see blood pressure improve so much more with the low-carbohydrate diet than with orlistat. If people have high blood pressure and a weight problem, a low-carbohydrate diet might be a better option than a weight loss medication.”
Another reason why low carb diets are effective in lowering blood pressure is because high blood sugar and insulin resistance are amongst the main contributors of hypertension. High blood sugar, elevated triglyceride and insulin levels are much more common in people with hypertension and those with normal blood pressures.
In a 1991 joint study by the University of Texas and the University of Pisa in Italy and published in the American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Care, found that diabetes mellitus is commonly associated with systolic/diastolic hypertension, and a wealth of epidemiological data suggest that this association is independent of age and obesity.
The researchers found that insulin resistance, the main cause of Type 2 diabetes is the link between diabetes and hypertension. According to them, elevated plasma insulin concentrations enhance very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) synthesis, leading to hypertriglyceridemia. This basically means that high insulin levels promotes the formation of very low density lipoproteins or what is commonly known as the small dense particle LDL subtype, and this promotes elevated triglyceride levels. Both the small density particle LDL subtype and elevated triglyceride levels promote atherosclerosis or plaque in the arteries, a precursor to strokes and heart disease.
4. Increase Omega 3 Intake
According to a 2013 mega analysis of 70 random controlled studies and published in the American Journal of Hypertension, the effects of both eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) on untreated hypertensive patients were much more apparent than in those with normal blood pressure.
The researchers found that hypertensive patients who received the Omega 3 had an average decrease in systolic pressure of 4.51 mm Hg, while diastolic pressure decreased at an average of 3.05 mm Hg, compared to the placebo groups.
Another 2012 Spanish study by the Hospital Universitario Santa Cristina in Madrid found that high doses ω-3 (Omega 3) PUFA i.e. poly saturated fatty acids ( ≥ 3 g/day) produces a small but significant decrease in blood pressure, especially systolic blood pressure, in older and hypertensive subjects.
These were confirmed by an 8-week randomized Iranian study by the Isfahan University of Medical Sciences in 2015 where 90 patients were randomly assigned to either the Omega 3 or placebo group. Those in the Omega 3 group were given 3 grams of Omega 3 every day for the duration of the study. At the end of the 8 weeks, those in the Omega 3 group saw their systolic blood pressure dropping an average 22.2 points to 14.2 mm Hg and their diastolic blood pressure decreased by an average of 11.95 points to around 11.9 mm Hg. In contrast, those in the placebo group only saw a little decrease of 0.5 points to 30.2 mm Hg in their systolic blood pressure with a similar 1.1 point reduction to about 17.3 mm Hg in their diastolic blood pressure.
5. Lose Weight
Losing the extra weight or fat can have immense health benefits besides making you look good. And lowering elevated blood pressure is one of them.
In a 2016 10-week study by the Texas A&M University the researchers found that even a modest 5% reduction in bodyweight/fat significantly reduced hypertension, while gaining weight increased its likelihood.
In another 2004 study by the Duke University in North Carolina a weigh/fat loss of 17 pounds or 7.7 kg was found to lower systolic blood pressure by 8.5 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by 6.5 mm Hg.
The researchers in the same study also found that when the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet was combined with exercise, the effects were even greater: a combined exercise and weight-loss intervention has been shown to decrease SBP (systolic blood pressure) and DBP (diastolic blood pressure) by 12.5 and 7.9 mm Hg, respectively.
Another 2013 meta-analysis of 8 randomized controlled studies involving 2,000 patients and published in the Journal of Family Practice showed that a weight loss of 4 kg reduces systolic blood pressure by 4.5 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by 3.2 mm Hg.
According to another randomized control study done in 2000 involving 133 mildly hypertensive patients and published in JAMA Internal Medicine, it was found that weight loss produced much more significant reductions in blood pressure than just exercise. Weight management was associated with a 7 mm Hg systolic and a 5 mm Hg diastolic clinic BP reduction, compared with a 4 mm Hg systolic and diastolic BP reduction associated with aerobic exercise. The researchers concluded that aerobic exercise combined with weight loss is recommended for the management of elevated BP in sedentary, overweight individuals.
In yet another meta-analysis by the University Hospital Antwerp in Belgium in 2000 found that a modest weight loss can normalize blood pressure levels even without reaching ideal weight. In patients taking antihypertensive medication, a modest weight loss has been shown to lower or even discontinue the need for antihypertensive medication. In patients with high normal blood pressure, a modest weight loss can prevent the onset of frank hypertension. The blood pressure-lowering effect of weight loss is most likely a result of an improvement in insulin sensitivity and a decrease in sympathetic nervous system activity, and occurs independent of salt restriction.
6. Increase Magnesium Intake
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in our bodies and it’s needed in more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. According to Medline Plus there’s ongoing research on the role of magnesium in the prevention and management of chronic illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease.
In a 12-week 2009 Korean randomized study involving 155 participants, researchers found that those with hypertension had their systolic and diastolic blood pressure improved significantly when they were given magnesium supplements during the course of the study. However, the magnesium supplements didn’t affect those participants with normal healthy blood pressure levels.
Their findings were consistent with those of another randomized 12-week Greek study by the Aristotle University involving 48 patients with mild hypertension where one of the groups was given 600 mg of magnesium in supplement form.
In a 2011 article on Live Science, a meta-analysis comprising 34 studies and involving more than 2,000 participants was reported. The magnesium supplement dosages ranged between 240 mg and 960 mg a day for the duration of each of the studies. The most pertinent results were achieved on a daily magnesium supplemental dosage of 368 mg for 3 months where the reductions with an average of 2 mm Hg for systolic blood pressure and 1.8 mm Hg for diastolic blood pressure.
The lead researcher Dr. Yiqing Song, an associate professor of epidemiology at Indiana University, said, “With its relative safety and low cost, magnesium supplements could be considered as an option for lowering blood pressure in high-risk persons or hypertension patients.”
It’s not difficult to lower your blood pressure naturally without drugs if you have hypertension. However I’m not suggesting that you ditch your hypertension medication if your doctor has prescribed them to you.
What you can do is use these 6 methods and work with your doctor to slowly reduce the dosage of your medication with the view of eliminating them altogether once your blood pressure levels are down to the normal range.