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The SCVC Blog

Cardiovascular care news and articles from our expert team

Natural methods to lower blood pressure

Posted on Tuesday March 26, 2024 in Health Screening

An article by Dr Edward Leatham, Consultant Cardiologist

Managing blood pressure is crucial for maintaining cardiovascular health and preventing long-term complications like heart disease and stroke. While medication is a standard approach for controlling high blood pressure, many patients are interested in non-pharmacological methods to manage their blood pressure, especially those who are borderline hypertensive and wish to avoid medication as long as possible. If you have an accurate method for measuring your own blood pressure at home using a home BP machine and a tried and tested methodology used at SCVC for over 20 years, or the latest wrist band BP app, this article may help in exploring the various non-pharmacological strategies for blood pressure management.

Salt Intake and Blood Pressure

The relationship between salt and blood pressure is well-documented, with excess salt consumption being linked to higher blood pressure levels. Historical dietary patterns and genetic predispositions have shaped how different populations respond to salt, making it a critical factor in modern-day hypertension management. Experimenting with salt reduction or substituting sodium chloride with potassium chloride can provide insights into one’s sensitivity to salt and its effect on blood pressure. A two-week salt reduction trial can help individuals determine if they are salt-sensitive and if reducing salt intake significantly impacts their blood pressure. However, it’s important to note that not all salt  strategies are effective. Despite the popularity of alternative salts like Himalayan pink salt, Celtic salt, and sea salt, these contain sodium chloride, similar to regular table salt, and have the same impact on blood pressure. For those who are salt-sensitive, replacing sodium chloride with potassium chloride (low salt) can be beneficial, although it may not further lower blood pressure beyond the effects of reducing sodium intake.  For more information on this and other evidence based dietary changes, see the DASH diet links below.

Weight Reduction

Obesity is a well known known risk factor for hypertension, however for those who are are even a little over their ideal BMI, weight reduction is an effective non-pharmacological method to lower blood pressure. Losing weight can significantly reduce blood pressure levels, and even moderate weight loss has a positive impact. The benefits of weight reduction extend beyond blood pressure management, improving overall health and reducing the risk of other chronic diseases.

Increase exercise

Although it is normal for blood pressure to rise during exercise, it then falls and it is clear to see in individual patients that starting regular aerobic exercise has a larger impact on lowering blood pressure than would be expected from overall weight reduction that may also be seen. This is borne out in large observational trials, so there is little doubt that a regular form of exercise such as a brisk walk exceeding 30 minutes serval times a week will help lower your blood pressure.

Restrict Alcohol Intake

Alcohol consumption is directly linked to blood pressure, with excessive intake raising blood pressure levels. Reducing alcohol consumption can lower blood pressure and has additional health benefits, including decreased risk of liver disease and improved mental health.

Dietary Supplements

Certain dietary supplements, like beetroot juice, have been shown to lower blood pressure in some studies. Beetroot juice is rich in dietary nitrates, which the body converts to nitric oxide, a compound that helps dilate blood vessels and reduce blood pressure. However, the long-term sustainability of consuming large quantities of beetroot juice is questionable.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture, an ancient Chinese medical practice, has been used to treat various ailments, including hypertension and it certainly has its followers, so if its an option for you to try out, it may well be worthwhile. While some individuals report success with acupuncture in managing their blood pressure, the evidence is mixed, and the effects may not be long-lasting. Like all of our remedies, a series of acupuncture sessions is generally not going to be a one time fix,  as long term monitoring and sustained sessions may be necessary to achieve and maintain blood pressure reduction.

Conclusion

Non-pharmacological approaches to lowering blood pressure offer valuable alternatives or complements to medication, especially for individuals keen on managing their health through lifestyle changes. While not all methods will work for everyone, personalised experimentation, supported by accurate blood pressure monitoring at home, can help identify effective strategies. These methods not only aid in blood pressure management but also contribute to overall health improvement, potentially delaying or reducing the need for medication and enhancing the quality of life.

Further reading

  1. Potassium Supplements probably do not lower BP
  2. Effect of dose and duration of reduction in dietary sodium on blood pressure levels: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised trials
  3. Sodium Intake and Hypertension
  4. Individual Blood Pressure Responses to Changes in Salt Intake (DASH Study)
  5. DASH Diet
  6. Non‐pharmacological management of hypertension
  7. How NaCl raises blood pressure: a new paradigm for the pathogenesis of salt-dependent hypertension
  8. 15 natural ways to lower your blood pressure

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