- Adriano dos Santos
Beyond Medications: Natural Ways to Lower Blood Pressure and Reduce Heart Disease Risk
Heart disease is still the number one cause of death in the United States, accounting for four of 10 deaths (CDC, 2021).
To avoid a heart attack and early death, cutting our risk of heart disease is one of the most important steps we can take. The greatest risk factor for heart disease is not cigarette smoking, high cholesterol, or diabetes—but high blood pressure (American Heart Association, 2021). In fact, hypertension accounts for about 54% of all strokes and 47% of all heart disease events (Mozaffarian et al., 2016).
Maintaining optimal blood pressure is crucial for avoiding heart disease and extending our lifespan. In the conventional model, drugs are the first line of treatment for hypertension. By 2023, antihypertensive medications are expected to be a $23 billion market. However, as Functional Medicine practitioners or advocates, we know that suppressing symptoms (like high blood pressure) with drugs isn’t the best approach. This is especially true with mild hypertension since studies have shown that drugs are often not effective in controlling it (Bramlage et al., 2016).
Diet, lifestyle, and behaviour changes are often more effective than drugs for managing mild hypertension. For example, exercise is at least as effective as medication for reducing blood pressure and visceral fat (Naci and Ioannidis, 2013). Many other natural interventions are effective for lowering blood pressure, including a nutrient-dense, whole-foods diet (Appel et al., 1997), stress management (Esch et al., 2002), adequate sleep (Huang et al., 2019), sun exposure (Weller et al., 2019), and supplements like magnesium (Cappuccio et al., 2007), coenzyme Q10 (Rosenfeldt et al., 2007), garlic extract (Ried et al., 2013), etc.
Additionally, hypertension has been linked to sleep circadian disruption, with studies suggesting that the disruption of the body's natural sleep rhythms may contribute to the development of hypertension (Lusardi et al., 2010). Therefore, adequate sleep is not only important for overall health but also for blood pressure regulation.
When you combine these diet and lifestyle changes and supplements, the impact is often greater than what can be achieved with medication. Helping our patients and clients manage their blood pressure naturally is one of the best ways to support them in reducing their risk of disease and improving their health span.
Yours in health,
Adriano dos Santos, BSc, MBOG, NWP, RSM, ESIM
Functional Nutrition Practitioner
CDC. (2021). Heart Disease Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm
American Heart Association. (2021). High Blood Pressure. Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure
Mozaffarian, D., Benjamin, E. J., Go, A. S., Arnett, D. K., Blaha, M. J., Cushman, M., ... & Turner, M. B. (2016). Heart disease and stroke statistics—2016 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 133(4), e38-e360.
Bramlage, P., Hasford, J., & Blood Pressure Control, R. E. G. I. S. T. E. R. (2016). Hypertension management in the elderly: which blood pressure target?. Therapeutic advances in cardiovascular disease, 10(2), 87-100.
Naci, H., & Ioannidis, J. P. (2013). Comparative effectiveness of exercise and drug interventions on mortality outcomes: meta-epidemiological study.