My blood pressure has gradually increased over the last few years, and I’d like to avoid medication if possible. Can you recommend natural remedies?
If your average blood pressure is greater than 120/80 but less than 140/90, that qualifies you for the diagnosis of “prehypertension,” a condition that affects tens of millions of Americans. According to a recent expert consensus called the JNC-7, people in this category definitely need some form of intervention; otherwise they have a significantly elevated risk for heart attacks, congestive heart failure, strokes, or chronic kidney disease. The two fundamental interventions for normalizing blood pressure include weight loss, with a goal of getting the percentage of body fat below 20 percent, and a vigorous exercise program that includes at least three hours of aerobic activity and two hours of weight lifting or similar resistance exercises every week. Also, people with elevated blood pressure should restrict their consumption of salt, refined carbohydrates, and alcohol. They also should avoid smoking altogether, for many reasons.
In addition to avoiding unhealthy foods, you need to include certain essential nutrients in your diet. These must-haves include potassium (abundant in citrus fruits, melons, bananas, nuts, and figs) and magnesium (found in leafy green vegetables, seafood, whole grains, and nuts). Many people with elevated blood pressure also benefit from a magnesium supplement of 300 to 500 mg per day.
Another beneficial supplement, omega-3 fatty acids from cold-water fish, helps lower blood pressure. Excellent food sources include wild Pacific salmon and sardines—both of which are low in mercury and other toxins. In addition to eating these fish, I recommend taking a supplement in liquid or capsules that provides at least 2 to 3 grams per day of a combination of EPA and DHA, the two most beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oil works even better when combined with garlic. You can either try eating two to three raw cloves a day, or take 1 to 3 grams of a freeze-dried garlic powder in capsule form.
According to several medical studies, olive oil also helps lower blood pressure. It contains polyphenols, compounds known to decrease inflammation and increase the production of nitric oxide, a gaseous molecule that relaxes blood vessel walls. Polyphenols give extra virgin olive oil its pungent flavor, which explains why it’s the most powerful at lowering blood pressure.
In addition, olive leaves contain oleuropein, a chemical that has been shown to lower blood pressure. Extracts of olive leaf are typically available in 500 mg capsules; I recommend three to four capsules per day. I also recommend two other supplements, L-arginine, an amino acid, and folic acid, a B-complex vitamin. Like olive oil, both of these nutrients relax blood vessels by increasing nitric oxide production. The dose of L-arginine is 2 grams twice daily; folic acid can be taken in a daily dose of 1,000 mcg.