Many people are searching for natural alternatives to prescription drugs for lower blood pressure. And rightly so; blood pressure medications are among the most frequently prescribed drugs and yet they are also responsible for some of the most numerous and unpleasant side effects. What’s more, they are not as effective as previously believed and some types have even been shown to be dangerous, actually increasing the risk of stroke and diabetes.
Of course, blood pressure drugs can be lifesavers when all else has failed but they should be a treatment of last resort instead of the routine treatment that they are.
So it’s very understandable that people turn to the Internet in search of natural options. There you will find all manner of natural remedies, herbs, supplements, “superfoods” and “miracle” formulas. These range from the practical and sensible to outright quackery. But do any of them really lower high blood pressure… and in a meaningful and lasting way?
Sadly, it’s extremely unlikely that any single remedy or method is going to make a significant difference. The reason is that high blood pressure is a complex condition with numerous causes, many of them still unknown. In fact, doctors estimate that the cause is a mystery in up to 90% of hypertension cases. And if you don’t know the cause how can you identify the solution?
For example, taking magnesium is widely touted as an effective natural way to lower blood pressure. The fact is that, yes, it can be very effective… if you happen to be deficient in magnesium. That’s because too much sodium or too little magnesium in your diet upsets the natural balance of these minerals, which raises your blood pressure. Taking a magnesium supplement is a good way to correct the imbalance and lower your blood pressure.
So magnesium is a very cause-specific remedy. It will have little or no effect on your blood pressure if its origin is something other than this specific mineral imbalance.
Beetroot juice is another very timely example of a natural remedy enjoying a lot of media hype. It’s getting loads of coverage as a “superfood” that beats (no pun intended) high blood pressure. Beetroot contains nitrates that are converted in the mouth to nitrite, which can temporarily lower blood pressure. But many other foods, as well as drinking water and our own saliva, contain nitrates. Aside from the fact that the method and cost of consuming beetroot juice is totally impractical for the true level of benefit it can offer, you’re not likely to get much out of it at all if you eat a balanced diet including nitrate-rich foods. That’s because your high blood pressure will not be a result of a lack of nitrite in your body.
This specificity is, in fact, the shortcoming in most blood pressure remedies, including drugs. Each class of blood pressure drug targets a specific cause or mechanism behind high blood pressure. Diuretics and not beta-blockers, for instance, are the best treatment for hypertension caused by excess sodium and fluid in the body. Any doctor will tell you that determining the right drug and dosage for each particular patient can be a frustrating process of trial and error.
And this is exactly what most people experience with natural remedies as well. Out of the masses of people who try them there will always be raving reports from the few who were “cured” by this or that. But finding one that will work for you is not much different from taking shots in the dark. So is it all just a waste of time and, very often, money? Are there no natural remedies you can rely on?
The answer is yes, and it’s called lifestyle.
Many doctors admit that up to 95% of high blood pressure cases can be treated successfully with lifestyle changes. (So why they still insist on writing prescriptions immediately upon diagnosis is a good question!) The sensible approach to natural blood pressure control is simply a varied diet of quality, whole foods, regular moderate exercise, weight control and all the other elements of a healthy lifestyle. It’s a well-known prescription and if you need more advice there’s plenty of it available free on the web.
Benefiting from lifestyle doesn’t require draconian action. For example, sometimes losing just a small amount of weight or changing your diet can make a dramatic difference in your blood pressure.
There are also a number of lifestyle-related practices that can benefit blood pressure in a general way in contrast to the majority of remedies that only work in specific, limited cases. These include any effective form of relaxation and stress relief as well as a promising new method called slow breathing, to which up to 82% of participants responded in clinical trials.
So instead of trawling the Internet for each new “miracle” cure that comes along you’re better off investing your time in learning about healthy lifestyle, stress relief and slow breathing. Contrary to what many people may fear, it doesn’t require becoming a saint or health fanatic.