Do you have high blood pressure and want to bring it down to a healthy level safely, naturally and effectively? Then you’ve come to the right place!
We happily have several options available for the natural treatment of hypertension, without any of the terrible side effects of prescription medications (which often don’t work very well, anyway, it turns out). These options include: acupuncture, herbs and supplements, diet, and lifestyle.
If your high blood pressure is mild to moderate, then just one or two of these holistic interventions might be enough to bring it down to a healthy level (below 120/80). The more severe your high blood pressure, the more you should consider employing all of these natural options at once, since severe high blood pressure (Stage 2 hypertension) can be life-threatening, as it is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
So, what is mild, moderate and severe hypertension?
|Top number (systolic) in mm Hg||Bottom number (diastolic) in mm Hg||Your category*|
|Below 120||and Below 80||Normal blood pressure|
|Between 120-139||or Between 80-89||Pre-hypertension (mild)|
|Between 140-159||or Between 90-99||Stage 1 hypertension (moderate)|
|160 or higher||or 100 or higher||Stage 2 hypertension (severe)|
Supplements for Hypertension
Whatever your numbers are, there are a number of supplements that can help get and keep your blood pressure in the healthy range, often eliminating the need for prescription meds with all their awful side effects and often questionable efficacy.
First for foremost, Vitamin D
The very first thing I recommend for patients with hypertension is a Vitamin D test, since multiple studies (1,2,3) as well as my decades of clinical experience have shown that having a robust Vitamin D level can safely, naturally and effectively lower blood pressure (in addition to the many other benefits of adequate Vit D). The mechanisms at work here are still not fully understood, but there are several possibilities for why filling up the Vit D tank appears to help lower high blood pressure:
- Vit D receptors are present in several types of cells in the cardiovascular system, possibly pointing to Vit D having a regulatory effect;
- Vit D has been shown to reduce the number of anti-inflammatory proteins called cytokines which are thought to contribute to the development of hypertension; and
- Vit D reduces the expression of renin, an enzyme that increases blood pressure.
How Much Vitamin D?
A lot of well-meaning docs will tell you that a level of 30-50 ng/mL (nanograms per milliliter) of Vit D is “adequate”, “average” or “fine”. I am here to say that adequate, average and fine just ain’t good enough. What I want for you is plentiful, optimal, and fabulous! Particularly when you have high blood pressure, it just makes sense to optimize your Vit D level.
And what is optimal? My goal with my patients is at least 70ng/mL Vitamin D, with anything between 70-90 being optimal.
If your Vit D test comes back at less than 70 ng/mL, guided supplementation is in order. What I recommend to my patients is a liquid Vit D, ideally taken along with a fatty meal (because Vit D is fat-soluble, it is better utilized by the body when taken with fat-containing foods), and then a retest in 2-3 months. If your level is quite low (<30), it can take several months to bring it up to an optimal level, so hang in there! Once your level is optimized, a daily or weekly maintenance dose is recommended to remain at that level, with once or twice yearly testing to monitor.
Can You Get Too Much Vitamin D?
Yes, you can, which is why guided supplementation and regular monitoring are recommended. But Vitamin D toxicity, measured as >150 ng/mL, is rare and difficult to achieve, and is typically only seen with one of a few very rare diseases.
Interestingly, “stoss therapy” is a medical treatment used in patients with chronically low Vit D levels, and involves giving a daily dose of 100,000 to 600,000IU of Vit D for one to several days. Stoss therapy is also used to boost immunity and has promise as a treatment for opportunistic infections, as well. The success and lack of adverse effects of high-dose stoss therapy show us that when one’s Vit D levels are quite low, toxicity issues are nil.
Second, Ramp Up Potassium
While the RDA of Potassium is 4,700mg, according to the 2015 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), the average daily Potassium intake for the past 2 decades has hovered around 2,500 mg per day for Americans. Note that RDAs are recommended minimums to avoid serious illness. The optimal amount for Potassium is estimated to be 10,000+mg per day (4). Fewer than 2% of people nowadays even meet the recommended minimum of 4,700mg, let alone the optimal amount, with women consuming less Potassium than men on average.
How does Potassium relate to high blood pressure?
A robust Potassium intake is associated with a decreased risk of dying from all causes, including high blood pressure and stroke (and also correlates to lower rates of dementia, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, cataracts, kidney stones, ulcers and stomach cancer.) On the flip side, Potassium deficiency causes electrolyte imbalance, which can lead to hypertension, as well as to heart irregularities/arrhythmias, anxiety, insomnia, muscle weakness and cramps, constant thirst, and constipation.
Supplementing with Potassium
For my patients with moderate to severe hypertension, I recommend Potassium Gluconate powder, as it is affordable and effective and easy to take. The dosage amount varies by patient, depending on severity of symptoms and on how Potassium-rich their diet is already. Many whole foods are rich in Potassium, so focusing on increasing Potassium intake through diet is a great option.
Which foods have the most Potassium?
The best dietary sources of Potassium are beet greens and spinach, artichokes, tomatoes, seafood, winter squashes and root vegetables, peaches, plantains, avocadoes, bamboo shoots, bok choy and dark chocolate. For my extensive list of Potassium-rich foods and their Potassium content per serving, go here.
More Magnesium, Please
Third on our list of supplements for high blood pressure is Magnesium. Serum magnesium levels are inversely related to the risk of death from ischemic heart disease, a researcher from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Serum magnesium concentration, independent of other risk factors, was inversely associated with death from all causes and from heart disease. And since Magnesium deficiency is common, especially in women over 40, and the benefits of taking adequate levels of Magnesium are many (better sleep, less anxiety, more regular bowel movements, and more – see my post on Magnesium for more info), I recommend Magnesium supplementation for most of my female patients.
Food choices that are especially rich in Magnesium are pink sea salt, dark leafy greens, cashews, and almonds.
Say Yes to Vitamin C
A 2012 meta-analysis of 29 randomized, controlled trials (5) showed a significant decrease in blood pressure with an average Vitamin C supplementation of 500mg per day for 8 weeks. And women with the highest levels of Vit C had the biggest drop in both systolic and diastolic pressure (top and bottom numbers).
Vit C lowers blood pressure through a couple of different mechanisms: 1) as a natural diuretic, it helps to reduce fluid volume throughout the body; and 2) a powerful anti-oxidant, Vit C
The best dietary sources of Vit C are the dark leafy greens, especially kale and spinach, and fresh-squeezed lemon and lime juice.
Would you like more information and guidance on naturally lowering high blood pressure?