Top 10 Nutrients for Healing High Blood Pressure
Best Supplements That Remove Plaque and Open Arteries
(Adapted from the book Read This If You Have a Heart; 2013, by Dr. Elie Klein ND)
The incidence of high blood pressure, or hypertension, is on the rise. Hypertension is a risk factor for stroke and kidney failure and is closely related to coronary heart disease and diabetes.
The good news is that dietary measures are often just as effective as drug therapy at lowering high blood pressure. One case in point is the DASH diet. DASH is an acronym that stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This diet, although not necessarily perfect, is scientifically proven to be as effective as prescription medications for bringing blood pressure into the healthy range. It is a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat or non-fat dairy. It also includes grains, especially whole grains, along with lean meats, fish and poultry, plus nuts and beans. It is high in fibre and low to moderate in fat.
Incorporating certain herbs and spices, such as garlic and cayenne peppers, can be helpful too as they have been scientifically shown to lower blood pressure. As with making any changes to your eating habits, good guidance and follow up is often required for a successful outcome.
Key Vitamin and Minerals
Vitamin C – can lower blood pressure in several ways. Along with lysine and proline, Vitamin C is needed to repair atherosclerotic (hardened, plaque laden) artery tissue, thereby restoring artery flexibility. Vitamin C also helps regulate production of hormones that regulate blood pressure, such as adrenaline. In one study, individuals who consumed at least 500 mg of vitamin C daily had an average reduction in systolic blood pressure (upper number) of 9% over one month. According to the research of doctors Mathias Rath and the late Linus Pauling, at higher levels of 2 to 6 grams daily, along with lysine and proline, Vitamin C can help reverse arterial plaque.
Magnesium – Taking magnesium has been shown to help lower blood pressure in several ways. Magnesium is necessary for relaxing the muscles. Since the arteries are lined with muscle cells, lack of magnesium may cause them to contract, which can in turn constrict the arteries. Magnesium ensures the arteries stay relaxed and dilated.
As well, magnesium is the most important nutrient for the management of stress and anxiety. It is necessary for the production of important neurotransmitters (messenger molecules) in the nervous system, including acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter responsible for overall relaxation.
The recommended daily intake of magnesium is 320 mg to 420 mg. Dietary sources of magnesium include non-processed oat bran and buckwheat, which offer some of the highest amounts of magnesium (200-300mg per cup), along with squash, pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds, cocoa powder (dark chocolate), seaweed, legumes (beans and lentils), fish, and green leafy vegetables such as spinach. Well absorbed forms of magnesium supplements include magnesium chloride, magnesium bisglycinate and liquid ionic magnesium.
POTASSIUM – This mineral is necessary for regulating blood pressure and the electric impulses in the heart, which control the contraction and relaxation of the heart (force of contraction and heart rate). The recommended daily intake is 3500 mg, which can be met by consuming lots of white beans, dark leafy greens, organic potatoes, apricots, fish, and squash. Over-the-counter potassium pills in health food stores are generally limited to 99 mg, although higher doses might be available in some dispensaries.
COENZYME Q10 – This is a substance produced for the purpose of assisting in production of energy in our cells. The heart, which never stops beating, harbours some of the highest levels of Coenzyme Q10. Coenzyme Q10 can help stabilize an irregular heartbeat, improve congestive heart failure, and lower high blood pressure. It generally offers these benefits at levels above 60 mg daily. While organ meats and fish are considered as the richest sources of Coenzyme Q10, they only offer a few milligrams. The human body utilizes Vitamin C, certain B vitamins, magnesium, selenium and the amino acid tyrosine to produce Co- enzyme Q10. Health food stores offer a variety of CoQ 10 supplements that are bioavailable and considered safe.
Other micronutrients and herbs can be helpful – their use often depends on the underlying cause of a person’s hypertension. For example, if hypothyroidism is a contributing culprit, iodine and selenium may be called for. If high cortisol levels and stress are a contributing cause, then herbs such Rhodiola Rosea, Holy Basil, and certain B vitamins may be needed. If lack of sleep and ability to relax is at issue, then GABA, 5-HTP, Valerian root, or Hops may be helpful. (Note that not all of these sedative herbs agree with everyone, so use with mindfulness.)
Do You Have Hypertension?
A blood pressure reading consists of two numbers. The first number is called “systolic” and its normal range is between 120 mmHg to 140 mmHg. This number measures the pressure that the heart exerts when it contracts to pump blood to the arteries. The second number is called “diastolic” and its normal range is between 80 mmHg to 90 mmHg. The diastolic number measures the pressure when the heart is relaxed, in between “pumps”.
The difference between the systolic number and the diastolic number is called pulse pressure (not to be confused with a pulse, which is used to determine a heart rate). Often a pulse pressure that is consistently 50 or more can be indicative of atherosclerosis (narrowing and hardening of the arteries). To illustrate, someone whose blood pressure is 140/90 has a pulse pressure of 50 (140-90=50), whereas when the blood pressure reading is 120/80, the pulse pressure is 40 (120-80=40).
To receive a diagnosis of high blood pressure, or hypertension, your blood pressure must be high on three consecutive blood pressure readings taken on different days.
Medical textbooks identify two forms of hypertension: essential hypertension and secondary hypertension.
Secondary hypertension accounts for only 5% of hypertension cases and results from other pre-existing conditions, such as kidney disease, hormonal disturbances (Cushing’s disease, hyperthyroidism, etc.), plus certain cancers and certain medications.
Essential hypertension, on the other hand, accounts for approximately 95% of all cases. Although medical textbooks do not identify a direct cause of essential hypertension, many contributing factors are listed. These include smoking, aging, obesity, potassium deficiency, vitamin D deficiency, sedentary lifestyle, salt, alcoholic intake, genetics and stress. Many of these factors are associated with atherosclerosis and plaque build-up and these are all closely related.
What levels are considered dangerous and require treatment? While treatment with medication may be initiated once systolic levels creep past 140, research suggests that medication may be useless below levels of 160/100. A recent review of studies on the benefit of treating mild hypertension (blood pressure up to 159/99) with medications concluded that drug treatment hasn’t been shown to reduce mortality (death) or morbidity (injury) of individuals with mild hypertension. In other words, below these levels, people who aren’t medicated live just as long as people who are medicated. Indeed, treatment guidelines in the U.S. for people over 60 have recently been changed to recommend initiation of treatment at levels of 150/90.
Furthermore, most blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes meds don’t treat the cause of the problem and can potentially produce a wide range of long term harmful effects, including liver, kidney and heart damage.
The good news is that with the right approach far more often than not, it is possible to restore your body’s ability to regulate and maintain a normal blood pressure, without requiring potentially dangerous pharmaceutical drugs.