What is High Blood Pressure?
According to the American Heart Association, nearly one in three adults in the United States has high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. But nearly one-third of those people don't know they have high blood pressure, because it's a silent disease. People can have high blood pressure for years without experiencing symptoms or knowing they have it.
The upper or first number in a blood pressure reading is the systolic pressure and the lower or second number is called the diastolic pressure. According to National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute guidelines:
- Normal blood pressure is below 120/80 mmHg.
- Prehypertension is systolic pressure that's between 120 to 139 or diastolic pressure between 80 and 89.
- Stage 1 hypertension is systolic pressure between 140 to 159 or diastolic pressure between 90 and 99.
- Stage 2 hypertension is systolic pressure higher than 160 or diastolic pressure of 100 or higher.
High Blood Pressure Symptoms
High blood pressure usually doesn't cause any symptoms in the early stages. Symptoms associated with high blood pressure can include:
- Dizziness or dizzy spells
Causes of High Blood Pressure
In most cases of high blood pressure, the American Heart Association says there is no one identifiable cause. This kind of high blood pressure is called primary hypertension or essential hypertension. It is usually a combination of factors, such as:
- Weight. The greater your body mass, the more pressure there is on your artery walls. That's because more blood is produced to supply oxygen and nutrients to tissues in your body.
- Activity level. Lack of physical activity tends to increase heart rate, which forces your heart to work harder with each contraction.
- Tobacco use. Chemicals in cigarettes and tobacco can damage artery walls.
- Sodium intake. Excessive sodium in the diet can result in fluid retention and high blood pressure, especially in people sensitive to sodium.
- Potassium intake. Low potassium can result in elevated sodium in cells, because the two balance one another.
- Stress. Stress can raise blood pressure.
- Alcohol consumption. Excessive alcohol intake can, over time, increase the risk of heart disease.
- Age. The risk of high blood pressure increases as you get older.
- Family history. High blood pressure often runs in families.
Natural Remedies for High Blood Pressure
Lifestyle changes and natural remedies may help to control high blood pressure, but your doctor may also recommend medication to lower high blood pressure. It is important to work with your doctor, because untreated high blood pressure may damage organs in the body and increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, brain hemorrhage, kidney disease, and vision loss.
1) Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
There is some evidence that the supplement CoQ10 may help to reduce high blood pressure. A 12 week double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 83 people with systolic hypertension examined the effect of CoQ10 supplements (60 mg twice daily). After the 12 weeks, there was a mean reduction in systolic blood pressure of 17.8 mm Hg in the Coq10-treated group.
Another study conducted at the University of Western Australia looked at the effect of CoQ10 on blood pressure and glycemic control in 74 people with type 2 diabetes. Participants were randomly assigned to receive either 100mg CoQ10 twice daily, 200mg of the drug fenfibrate, both, or neither for 12 weeks.
CoQ10 significantly reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure(mean reduction 6.1 mm Hg and 2.9 mm Hg respectively). There was also a reduction in HbA1C, a marker for long-term glycemic control.
In a meta-analysis of seven randomized controlled trials of garlic supplements, three trials showed a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure and four in diastolic blood pressure. Researchers concluded that garlic powder supplement may be of clinical use in patients with mild high blood pressure.
Garlic supplements should only be used under the supervision of a qualified health practitioner. Garlic can thin the blood (reduce the ability of blood to clot) similar to aspirin. Garlic may interact with many drugs and supplements such as the prescription drugs such as Coumadin (warfarin) or Trental (pentoxifylline), aspirin, vitamin E, gingko. It is usually recommended that people taking garlic stop in the weeks before and after any type of surgery.
The herb hawthorn is often used by traditional herbal practitioners for high blood pressure.
In a randomized controlled trial conducted by researchers in Reading, UK, 79 patients with type 2 diabetes were randomized to receive either 1200 mg of hawthorn extract a day or placebo for 16 weeks. Medication for high blood pressure was used by 71 percent of the patients.
At the end of the 16 weeks, patients taking the hawthorn supplement had a significant reduction in mean diastolic blood pressure (2.6 mm Hg). No herb-drug interactions were reported.
4) Fish oil
Preliminary studies suggest that fish oil may have a modest effect on high blood pressure. Although fish oil supplements often contain both DHA (docohexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), there is some evidence that DHA is the ingredient that lowers high blood pressure.
5) Folic acid
Folate is a B vitamin necessary for formation of red blood cells. It may help to lower high blood pressure in some people, possibly by reducing elevated homocysteine levels.
One small study of 24 cigarette smokers found that four weeks of folic acid supplementation significantly lowered blood pressure.
More natural treatments for high blood pressure on the next page...