Hypertension and dietary supplements

What is hypertension (high blood pressure)?

High Blood pressure is a common condition in which the pressure of your blood against your blood vessel walls poses a risk to your health. Over time, high blood pressure increases risk of stroke and heart disease. 

High blood pressure is a condition that often carries no symptoms and can go undetected for years, hence it is called a “silent killer”.  Two measurements are used to diagnose high blood pressure: diastolic and systolic pressure. Diastolic is the pressure on your arteries in between heartbeats. A diastolic blood pressure measurement above 80 is considered high. Systolic blood pressure is the pressure against your artery walls during a contraction of your heart (a heartbeat). A systolic blood pressure measurement of 120 or above is considered elevated while above 130 is considered high. 

Both the systolic and diastolic blood pressure measurements are used in medicine to determine if you have high blood pressure, and if treatment may be necessary.

Many people are interested in using natural supplements to help improve their blood pressure, especially in combination with their medication. 

It is important to always check with the doctor before starting any supplement while on blood pressure medication and to note that supplements alone may not be enough to resolve high blood pressure.

What is science around supplements use for people with high blood pressure: 

1. Vitamin D

Low levels of vitamin have been linked to high blood pressure. However, there are concerns that vitamin D supplements had a very minor effect on diastolic blood pressure, and no effect on systolic in people with high blood pressure [1]

It is important to get enough Vitamin but its effects on high blood pressure may be minor. The major source of vitamin D is through sun exposure, and food sources.  Vitamin D supplements are also available should you not be able to get enough sunlight exposure or even Vitamin D rich foods. 

2. CoQ10

Coenzyme Q10 (also known as ubiquinone) is an antioxidant that helps your cells produce energy. Research shows positive results that CoQ10 is beneficial in bringing down diastolic blood pressure by up to 10 millimetres of mercury (mm Hg) and systolic blood pressure by 17 mm Hg [2]

3. Garlic

Garlic has been used as a diuretic and circulation treatment since the time of ancient Greece.

Garlic may improve the way your body circulates blood through your system. Research has shown that garlic may help reduce both diastolic and systolic blood pressure in randomized clinical trials [3]

Garlic supplements or garlic as an active ingredient in supplements and raw garlic can both be used to help with high blood pressure. [4]

4. Omega-3s through fish oil or flaxseed supplements

Omega 3 fatty acids may help improve cardiovascular tone.  There is growing and promising evidence that omega 3 may help lower blood pressure.  Omega 3 fatty acids are found in food especially oily fish, seeds to name a few. Fish oil supplements as well as flaxseed supplements (capsule and liquid) [5]

5. Folic acid

Pregnant women are more at risk of high blood pressure due to increased to increase blood volume seen in pregnancy.  Folic acid is a B-Vitamin which is an important supplement for a baby’s development during pregnancy. Folic acid may have the additional benefit of reducing the risk of hypertension during pregnancy and there have been studies proving folic acid to be beneficial for non-pregnant women and men too. Folic acid can be found in food and supplements as part of prenatal vitamins, multivitamin & mineral supplements and / or stand-alone supplement [6]

Consult with your healthcare provide before the use of any dietary supplements.

Conclusion: 

Natural supplements are a promising way to treat high blood pressure. But some supplements can interact with blood pressure medications, such as ACE inhibitors and Beta Blockers.  It is important to seek professional advice before starting any supplement to help lower high blood pressure or any supplement for that matter if living with hypertension.  Supplement are not meant to replace blood pressure medication but as means to support the action of blood pressure medication.

References: 

  1. Witham MD. (2009). Effect of vitamin D on blood pressure: A systematic review and meta-analysis. 
    ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0028815/
  2. Rosenfeldt FL, et al. (2007). Coenzyme Q10 in the treatment of hypertension: A meta-analysis of the clinical trials. DOI: 
    10.1038/sj.jhh.1002138
  3. Xiong XJ, et al. (2015). Garlic for hypertension: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. DOI: 
    10.1016/j.phymed.2014.12.013
  4. Ried K, et al. (2014). Potential of garlic (Allium sativum) in lowering high blood pressure: Mechanisms of action and clinical relevance. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4266250/
  5. Cicero AF, et al. (2009). Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids: Their potential role in blood pressure prevention and management. DOI: 
    10.2174/157016109788340659
  6. De Ocampo MPG, et al. (2018). Folic acid supplement use and the risk of gestational hypertension and preeclampsia. DOI: 
    10.1016/j.wombi.2017.08.128

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