Hypertension (elevated blood pressure) is one of the “silent killer” diseases. People may not be aware that they have hypertension because this condition might not produce noticeable symptoms. If hypertension is left untreated, it can cause significant problems with your heart, arteries and entire cardiovascular system. But statistics do not lie – well, not often. Every 7 minutes someone in Canada dies from heart disease or stroke. It is thought that heart disease costs the Canadian economy $20.9 billion dollars every year. Both are good reasons to have your blood pressure checked regularly.
Blood pressure readings are expressed as a ratio of your systolic over diastolic pressures. Let's compare your cardiovascular system to a garden hose; they are more similar than you might think. When your heart contracts it forces blood into your arteries, or when you quickly turn on the faucet water rushes into the hose, causing the pressure to rise. This systolic pressure will normally range from 150-120 mmHg. When you turn off the water supply, or your heart relaxes, the pressure will drop. This diastolic pressure will normally range from 95-80 mmHg. These two readings will provide you with your blood pressure, which is ideally 120/80 mmHg. According to the Canadian Hypertension Society, a blood pressure reading of 140/90 mmHg indicates blood pressure that is too high. If you have diabetes or kidney disease, your blood pressure should be under 130/80 mmHg.
People often ask me what natural options are available to lower blood pressure? What supplements can I take? Perhaps the best thing one can do is to exercise regularly. It can help to lower blood pressure in several ways. Regular exercise can help you lose weight and being overweight is known to elevate blood pressure. Always check with your Physician before starting a new exercise program.
There are several supplements that can help lower blood pressure. Garlic is the product most commonly taken to help lower blood pressure. In some studies, it has been shown to help reduce blood pressure by about 10%. The recommended doses vary. I recommend taking the equivalent of 4 garlic cloves a day and most supplements will state how much raw garlic each tablet contains. I don’t recommend using garlic oil capsules for lowering blood pressure as they tend to not be as effective. Generally, there are few side effects associated with garlic supplements. The most common side effects are heartburn, indigestion, dizziness, nausea and bad breath. This bad breath and skin odour can even occur when one takes an “odourless” form of garlic. The most noted drug interaction with garlic involves its ability to enhance the effectiveness of anti-coagulants (blood thinners). People taking blood-thinning medications should consult their Doctor or Pharmacist before taking this supplement.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a supplement that has been shown to be helpful to reduce blood pressure. One small study demonstrated that men who took 120mg of CoQ10 had lowered their blood pressure by 9% after eight weeks of therapy. There have been no known side effects seen with CoQ10 use. However, this supplement can lower blood glucose levels, so people with diabetes should use this supplement with caution. CoQ10 can also interact with warfarin, a prescription blood-thinner. If you have any questions about CoQ10 ask your Heart Pharmacist.
Even my favorite supplement, Vitamin C, has been shown to be helpful for treating high blood pressure. One 30-day study of 39 individuals, taking medications for hypertension, who received 500 mg of vitamin C daily showed a reduction of their blood pressure by about 10%. There is some evidence that the minerals magnesium, calcium and potassium may be associated with high blood pressure. These three minerals work together to help regulate blood pressure in the body. Some studies have shown that people who have high blood pressure may be deficient in these minerals. Perhaps this is why taking these minerals, and thus correcting this nutrient deficiency, can help reduce blood pressure.
High blood pressure is a condition that should not be ignored. Just because there are no symptoms, it does not mean there are no long term health consequences. There will need to be significant effort on your part to help lower your blood pressure. Diet, exercise, supplements, yoga and even acupuncture can all help lower blood pressure.