Complementary and Alternative Therapies
data thanks to the university of Maryland medical center-
Whether or not your doctor prescribes medication to lower your blood pressure, you need to make changes in your diet and lifestyle. Your treatment plan may also include a range of complementary and alternative therapies (CAM). Ask your doctor how to incorporate these therapies into your overall treatment plan.
DO NOT stop taking your medication without your doctor’s supervision. Quickly stopping some types of blood pressure medications can cause blood pressure to rise extremely high, which could cause stroke, heart attack, or other medical complications. Always tell your health care provider about the herbs and supplements you are using or considering using.
The following lifestyle changes will help treat high blood pressure:
- Lose weight if you need to. Losing even a few pounds can help lower your blood pressure.
- Stay physically active. Get 30 minutes of exercise each day. Breaking exercise up into 10 minute-spurts throughout the day still offers the same benefits. If you are just starting, begin slowly and work your way up to 30 minutes a day. Walking is an easy way to get exercise. If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise program.
- If you smoke, quit. Talk to your doctor if you need help.
Nutrition and Dietary Supplements
Eating a healthy diet that is low in saturated fat and salt can help lower blood pressure. Following these nutritional tips may help:
- Try the DASH diet, which emphasizes eating fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy, and cutting down on salt.
- Eat antioxidant foods, including fruits (such as blueberries, cherries, and tomatoes) and vegetables (such as squash and bell peppers).
- Eat foods high in B-vitamins and calcium, such as almonds, beans, whole grains, and dark leafy greens (such as spinach and kale).
- Avoid refined foods, such as white breads, pastas, and especially sugar.
- Eat fewer red meats and more lean meats, cold-water fish, tofu (soy, if no allergy), or beans for protein.
- Use healthy oils, such as olive oil.
- Reduce or eliminate trans fats, found in commercially-baked goods such as cookies, crackers, cakes, French fries, onion rings, donuts, processed foods, and margarine.
- Drink 6 to 8 glasses of filtered water daily.
Some vitamins and supplements may help lower blood pressure, although scientific evidence is mixed. Be sure to talk to your doctor before taking any vitamins or supplements, especially if you take medicine for high blood pressure.
- Omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish oil, help reduce cholesterol, and may help lower blood pressure. In most studies where people lowered their blood pressure, extremely high doses were used. It is not clear whether lower doses would work as well. At high doses, fish oil can cause an increased risk of bleeding, especially if you are also taking blood thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or daily aspirin. Adding more fish to your diet is safe. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish twice a week. Cold-water fish, such as salmon or halibut, are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) was shown to reduce blood pressure slightly in several studies. CoQ10 might help the blood clot better, which could mean that blood-thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), and aspirin would not work as well.
- Magnesium citrate may help control blood pressure slightly, although evidence is mixed. People who take potassium-depleting diuretics may have lower levels of magnesium. Magnesium may cause loose stools and interact with some medications, including blood pressure medications. Ask your doctor if a magnesium supplement is right for you.
- Green coffee extract, made from coffee beans before they are roasted, may help lower blood pressure in people with mild hypertension. Researchers need to do more studies, but two studies found that green coffee extract worked better than placebo to lower blood pressure slightly. Some green coffee extracts have caffeine, which can interact with many prescription drugs. Caffeine might also raise blood pressure. To be safe, ask your doctor before taking green coffee extract.
- Calcium may help lower blood pressure a little, although evidence is mixed. More studies are needed. Calcium can interfere with many medications so make sure you talk to your doctor before taking a calcium supplement.
- L-arginine may help blood vessels dilate, lowering blood pressure. Arginine increases blood flow and may interact with medications for high blood pressure, including nitrates. It may also interact with medications for erectile dysfunction. L-arginine may make herpes worse. It also may lower blood pressure, raising the risk that your blood pressure could drop too low.
- Potassium, by prescription, may lower blood pressure slightly. Not all studies agree, and you need a prescription to get the right amount of potassium. People who take potassium-sparing diuretics should not take extra potassium. Talk to your doctor before taking any potassium, even at a low dose.
- Vitamin D may help lower blood pressure. Studies link high levels of vitamin D in the blood with a reduced risk of high blood pressure.
Herbs may strengthen and tone the body’s systems. As with any therapy, you should work with your health care provider before starting treatment. You may use herbs as dried extracts (capsules, powders, or teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, make teas with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 to 4 cups per day. You may use tinctures alone or in combination as noted.
Talk to your doctor before taking any herbs to treat hypertension, especially if you already take medication to control blood pressure.
- Yarrow (Achillea wilhelmsii) in a tincture, may help lower blood pressure, according to one double-blind study. However, more research is needed. Achillea may interact with blood thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), and aspirin. It may also interact with lithium and some sedatives. Pregnant women should not take Achillea. People with allergies to ragweed should be careful when taking Achillea.
- Hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa) tea helped lower blood pressure according to one study. Pregnant women should not take hibiscus.
- Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) may help lower blood pressure, although evidence is weak. You may also take a tincture of this mushroom extract. Reishi can interact with other medications and may increase the risk of bleeding.
- Garlic (Allium sativum) may help lower blood pressure slightly, although not all studies agree. Garlic may interact with blood thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), and aspirin. It can also interact with many other medications, including some medications used to treat HIV/AIDS.
Few studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic remedies. A professional homeopath, however, may recommend one or more of the following treatments for hypertension based on their knowledge and clinical experience. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person’s constitutional type, includes your physical, emotional, and intellectual makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate remedy for a particular person.Enclosed is a short list of homeopathic remedies,there may be another possible 15-30 other remedies that may be a better fit.
- Argentum nitricum, for people whose blood pressure increases when they feel anxious or nervous. They may be warm blooded and subject to claustrophobia and strong carvings for sweets and salty food.
- Aurum metallicum, for people who are serious in demeanor and who concentrate on their career. There is a general tendency to feel worse at the end of the day. They may have a strong desire for alcohol, and feel angry or depressed when they believe they have failed.
- Calcarea carbonica, for people who often feel tired and overwhelmed when sick. They may have clammy hands and feet and often feel chilly. They may crave sweets and eggs, and may be overweight.
- Lachesis, for people who are often talkative and agitated, with a fear of disease. They may be suspicious and jealous, and feel tightness in the chest. They feel worse after sleeping, and may not be able to tolerate clothing around their necks.
- Nux vomica, for people who are impatient, do not like to be delayed, and are ambitious and driven. They may have a strong desire for coffee and other stimulants, and may be sensitive to light.
Several studies suggest the using acupuncture helps lower blood pressure. More research is needed.
Massage and Physical Therapy
Massage may help people with high blood pressure cope with stress. One study found that people with hypertension who got massage had lower blood pressure and steroid hormones, an indicator of stress. People with hypertension who tend to have high levels of stress may be helped by massage therapy.
The association between stress and hypertension is complicated and somewhat controversial. The best evidence of a relaxation technique that reduces blood pressure is for transcendental meditation (TM). Several studies also say that yoga may help lower blood pressure.
Your doctor will check your blood pressure often while you are pregnant. Some women get hypertension for the first time during pregnancy. If this happens, you may need medication. Preeclampsia, which involves high blood pressure during pregnancy, can be life threatening. In preeclampsia, high blood pressure happens along with other symptoms, such as swelling of the ankles and legs, blurred vision, liver test abnormalities, and protein in the urine.
Warnings and Precautions
- Avoid fish high in mercury, which may raise blood pressure.
- The use of cocaine, nicotine, or licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) can cause high blood pressure or make it worse.
- Caffeine can make high blood pressure worse.