Hypertension (high blood pressure) can lead to heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney disease, or other serious health problems if it’s not properly managed. Doctors generally suggest treating hypertension with a combination of lifestyle changes and medication.
Many people are interested in alternative medicine or natural supplements in order to lower blood pressure levels and improve their heart health. Certain vitamins, minerals, or herbal supplements may be part of an effective hypertension treatment plan.
Although some supplements may help, others may not be as beneficial as their manufacturers claim. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate or approve supplements in the same way it does with medications. This means that companies sometimes say that their product can treat or cure a medical condition despite a lack of research showing that the claim is true.
Read on to learn which supplements may help you maintain healthy blood pressure levels and which come with claims that are too good to be true.
Your body uses the mineral magnesium for many different processes, including helping in supporting muscle and nerve function as well as energy production. It may also affect blood pressure levels, leading some people to take magnesium supplements to treat or prevent hypertension. Research shows that magnesium may encourage your body to make substances that widen your arteries and protect your blood vessels from damage.
Some research has found that magnesium may in fact help lower blood pressure. In one study cited in the journal Hypertension, researchers combined data from 34 clinical trials that looked at the effect of this supplement on blood pressure. They concluded that taking 300 milligrams of magnesium each day led to slightly lower blood pressure levels.
Although not all studies have found that magnesium can affect blood pressure, research shows that these supplements may be helpful for some people.
Your body uses coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) to grow and protect tissues from damage. Research into this antioxidant has produced mixed results when it comes to lowering blood pressure.
Some studies have found that CoQ10 can be effective. After combining 12 studies analyzing this supplement, a group of researchers determined that CoQ10 reduced systolic blood pressure (the amount of force in your blood vessels when your heart beats) by up to 17 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and reduced diastolic pressure (the level of force in your blood vessels when your heart is resting) by up to 10 mm Hg.
However, other studies from the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews have found that people’s blood pressure readings don’t change when they take CoQ10.
More research is needed to understand whether CoQ10 is helpful and in which cases it may help manage hypertension. In the meantime, ask your doctor whether this supplement may be safe or helpful for you.
Research has found that people with low levels of vitamin D are more likely to have hypertension. This finding has led some researchers to investigate whether taking vitamin D supplements can treat the condition. Unfortunately, this may not always be the case.
A couple of small clinical trials have shown that vitamin D supplements may decrease systolic blood pressure, but many other trials have shown no effect. This supplement may not help with hypertension — or it may only help some people some of the time.
In some cases, experts warn that too much vitamin D could actually damage the heart as well as the kidneys and liver. If you’re looking for a supplement for hypertension, it may be a good idea to skip vitamin D.
Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats involved in body processes including inflammation and heart and blood vessel health. Supplements such as fish oil that contain these fats may help lower your risk of heart disease and reduce symptoms of eczema or rheumatoid arthritis.
In a collection of 31 studies, published in Circulation, researchers found that omega-3 fatty acids didn’t decrease blood pressure in those who already had normal levels. However, they found a slight drop among those with hypertension or high cholesterol levels. On average, both systolic and diastolic blood pressure were decreased by less than 1 mm Hg.
Fish oil supplements may help lower your blood pressure levels — but not by much.
Potassium is a mineral that helps ease tension within the walls of your blood vessels and helps your heart beat normally. It may also encourage your body to clear out extra sodium, a mineral that can increase blood pressure.
Some research has found a link between eating more potassium and having lower blood pressure. Additionally, the American Heart Association recommends reducing blood pressure by eating more potassium-containing foods such as apricots, bananas, raisins, lentils, kidney beans, soybeans, sweet potatoes, and milk. If you’re eating a heart-healthy diet, potassium supplements probably aren’t necessary, although you may want to ask your doctor whether they can help if you have trouble getting this mineral from your diet.
Taking potassium supplements may be especially important if you use diuretics (water pills) to help treat your high blood pressure. Diuretics can cause your body to get rid of too much potassium, causing levels in your body to drop. If you take these medications, ask your health care provider about potassium supplements.
Fiber, found in most plant-based foods, can improve digestive and heart health. It lowers your blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and it reduces your risk of some types of cancer, as well as diabetes and heart disease.
An analysis of two dozen clinical trials found that people who used fiber supplements tended to experience reduced blood pressure. Adults over the age of 40 with hypertension were more likely to benefit from fiber supplements than young adults.
Health experts recommend taking folic acid, also called folate or vitamin B9, during pregnancy. This vitamin can help your baby develop properly and reduce the risk of birth defects.
Early evidence shows that folic acid may also help prevent gestational hypertension or preeclampsia — conditions that occur when your blood pressure rises during pregnancy. In one study from the Journal of the Australian College of Midwives of more than 3,000 pregnant women, researchers found a link between folic acid supplements and blood pressure. Study participants who used these supplements tended to have lower rates of gestational hypertension and preeclampsia.
During pregnancy, folic acid supplements may offer health benefits to you and your baby in many ways, including lowering your blood pressure levels.
Limited evidence from the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine suggests that taking a minimum of 5,000 micrograms per deciliter of folic acid supplements for a minimum of six weeks can help slightly lower systolic blood pressure.
This mineral is essential for helping your blood vessels work properly. However, taking calcium may not be a good idea if you have hypertension, as heart disease may be more common in people who use these supplements. If you are eating a balanced diet, you’re likely getting all of the calcium you need from your food.
Vitamins and supplements aren’t a replacement for blood pressure medications that your doctor has prescribed for you. Make sure to take the medications you are prescribed. If you have a concern about a particular drug, talk to your doctor.
Just because many vitamins and supplements are “natural” does not always mean they are safe. Certain herbal supplements, including ginseng, guarana, licorice, and arnica, can increase your blood pressure or interact with blood pressure medications.
Additionally, it is possible to take too much of a supplement. For example, high levels of potassium can make your heart beat irregularly or cause health problems in people with kidney disease.
Tell your doctor about any supplements you are taking, including vitamins or herbal products. They can help ensure that the supplements are safe for your health needs.
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