Hypertension is one of the greatest health care problems facing North Americans, with over 50 million affected. Elevated blood pressure is a known risk factor for heart attacks and strokes and is the foremost cause of unexpected death. The International Journal of Internal Medicine suggests that hypertension also contributes to comorbidity in individuals with diabetes, as approximately 50-70% percent of people with diabetes also have elevated blood pressure.
There are numerous conventional approaches to help a patient control hypertension including the following well-known interventions: diuretics; angiotension-converting enzyme inhibitors; calcium channel blockers; and beta-blockers. Naturopathic approaches are equally varied and include botanicals, nutraceuticals and a perhaps a greater emphasis on diet and lifestyle interventions than conventional practitioners.
The first step to controlling hypertension is to incorporate diet and lifestyle changes, such as increased exercise, increased consumption of magnesium and potassium via a higher fruit and vegetable based diet, along with a low-sodium diet.
The ‘bottom line’ when creating a therapeutic plan is to achieve a normotensive state safely with as few side effects as possible, while supporting overall cardiovascular health in a manner that is sustainable for a lifetime.
How powerful are diet and lifestyle changes?
In a randomized and multicenter study published in 2004 in The Journal of Clinical Hypertension, more than 800 patients with hypertension (mild to severe) increased physical activity, were given a weight loss diet plan, and decreased sodium and alcohol consumption. From their baseline readings, hypertension was cut by more than 50%. Further epidemiologic data assessing the contribution of Western society’s common risk factors in hypertension has displayed evidence that physical inactivity makes the largest contribution to risk of developing hypertension, though high sodium and low potassium intake each contributed a significant risk, as did low magnesium intake.
As difficult as it is to help patients change their behaviour patterns, all doctors need to invest in constructing specific exercise plans and discussing specific dietary interventions (or have someone on staff that will).
There are several supplements that may be useful for controlling hypertension. A growing body of literature is starting to show the influence of various natural medicines:
Coenzyme Q10 – some smaller studies have displayed benefits. 26 patients with essential hypertension were given 50 mg of CoQ10, 2 times per day for 10 weeks. At the end of the 10 weeks, the subject’s average systolic blood pressure had dropped from 164 mmHg to 146 mmHg, and their average diastolic blood pressure had decreased from 98 mmHg to 86 mmHg.
Hawthorn – In a recent double-blinded study, subjects who took hawthorn extract for more than 4 months had significant drops in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure 3 months into the study.
L- Arginine – In one study on 13 patients with hypertension and angina, L-arginine, taken at 2g, 3 times a day, led to improvement of resting systolic blood pressure, reduction of angina symptoms, and better quality of life.
If you have hypertension, it is best to seek the care of a primary health care provider to help customize a plan and to monitor the effectiveness of the treatment.
George Tardik, B.Sc.(hon), N.D.