Think you don’t need to know how to reduce blood pressure? If you are not already among the 1 in 3 adults with high blood pressure in the U.S., then the odds are that without some sort of treatment you’ll have high blood pressure at some point in your life. In this article, I’ll discuss the natural ways to lower blood pressure including statistics we doctors call “hypertension pathophysiology” and help choose your treatment for hypertension.
Some people have high blood pressure caused by an underlying condition. This type of high blood pressure is called secondary (rather than primary) hypertension (HTN), with those underlying conditions spelled out in this article. All types of hypertension increase your risk for serious health problems, such as stroke, heart disease, ocular blood clots, kidney failure, and dementia. So, it’s clear you want to have a normal blood pressure. Below you will find a blueprint for achieving your health goals naturally which will cover the following:
- Eliminate the basic HTN risk factors
- Do the “right” type of exercise
- Eliminate two toxic types of foods right off the bat
- Address the major metabolic issues: blood sugar, insulin, and leptin
- Normalize your weight
- Balance your omega fatty acids
- Eliminate internal inflammation and oxidative stress
- Control your stress levels
- Fix your broken microbiome
- Banish toxins
- Increase nitric oxide
- Increase vitamin D
- Consider other foods, supplements, and integratives
The Basics of Treatment for Hypertension
In case you’re not aware, let’s review risk factors you can easily control. For example, you can stop smoking, control alcohol consumption and, for those who are “salt-sensitive,” control your salt consumption. You can increase potassium containing foods (such as bananas and raisins), and take a good magnesium supplement. Estimates show that 80% of Americans are magnesium deficient, and magnesium relaxes vascular smooth muscle; to directly lower blood pressure. In addition, your weight and the amount of exercise you do affect your blood pressure.
It’s important to have an exercise regimen that will help to lower your insulin levels. Studies have traditionally shown that “cardio” or “aerobic” activities such as jogging and swimming tend to be the most beneficial for lowering blood pressure.
However, more recent studies reveal good news that you don’t need a 30-60 minute workout to reap the insulin and blood-pressure-lowering benefits. Short, intense workouts such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT) are becoming more popular for both health and efficiency.
Diet changes and precautions
Before I get into a more verbose discussion about non-inflammatory eating, let me mention two food items we all used to think were healthy foods. These so-called health foods have turned out to be poison for most people with existing high blood pressure; grains and sugars (including fructose). Since many people still think grains and fruit juices are healthy choices, I want to emphasize they most certainly are not. Now, the science.
Addressing “Hypertension Pathophysiology”
Closely linked are the metabolic abnormalities of high blood sugar, high insulin levels, high leptin levels and, therefore, insulin and leptin resistance at the receptor level.
Hypertension can be caused by cellular glycation (stiffening) from high blood sugar levels, so getting your blood sugar under control is a must. In addition, most people with hypertension have insulin receptors which don’t work efficiently; called insulin resistance. To compensate for this, your body produces more insulin. To lower insulin levels, you need to replace processed foods with real, whole foods. You also need to eliminate or dramatically reduce sugar and processed fructose sugar and grains from your diet. Some studies show a closer correlation between fructose consumption and hypertension than even sodium! And then there’s leptin; another hormone which looms upward as you eat poorly and gain weight.
You can easily become leptin-resistant (with the attendant high leptin levels) by eating the same diet full of sugar (particularly fructose and grains once again.) Together, these foods will create the perfect environment for weight-packing bacteria to thrive in your GI tract; or microbiome. You then have your gut telling your metabolism to slow down and your high leptin levels telling you to keep eating and to store more fat in your fat cells. It’s not a pretty picture, but it’s one that can be easily reversed. Doing so will help you achieve your ideal weight which will reduce your blood pressure.
One of the Best Natural Ways to Lower Blood Pressure is to Normalize your Weight
We’ve talked about blood sugar, insulin, and leptin. To complete the discussion of the diet plan to normalize your weight for life, it’s essential that you eat an anti-inflammatory diet. This can be a basic anti-inflammatory diet, a stricter autoimmune, low-lectin diet or even a ketogenic diet plan. A paleo diet is effective, but you must be sure to compensate for the over-abundance of omega-6 fatty acids. Of course, all of these diet plans can be found in this blog.
Balancing the omega fats in your diet
Just about everyone needs to normalize their omega 6-to-3 fat ratio. Also, omega-3 is vital for healthy blood pressure. Findings from a study of 2,000 healthy men and women between the ages of 25 and 41 showed that those with the highest serum levels of omega-3 also had the lowest blood pressure readings.
Both omega-3 and omega-6 fats are essential for your health, but most Americans are consuming too many omega-6 fatty acids in their diets and too little omega-3s. This is because we tend to eat more meat and milk and less omega-3 fish. Eating omega-3 fats is a great way to re-sensitize your insulin receptors if you are insulin resistant. It is also essential for a normal, healthy blood pressure. Wild caught salmon and sardines are both low-mercury and high omega-3 containing fish. However, it’s hard to consume enough to compensate for all of the omega-6s we eat; so I always recommend a good omega-3 supplement.
How to Reduce Blood Pressure and Improve your Total Health: Inflammation and OS
If you have been following my blog, you’re aware that internal inflammation is associated with all disease states; including hypertension. Because approximately 70% of Americans are overweight, this alone is considered a major cause of reversible inflammation. In addition, eating the standard American diet (S.A.D.) described above will increase inflammation levels. Add in toxins such as heavy metals (mercury) and fluoride in drinking and showering water and you’ve piled onto our national epidemic of inflammation. If you reduce your weight, clean up your diet, deal with toxins, stress and leaky gut, then you will make a big “dent” in your inflammation problem and your blood pressure level, too.
Oxidative stress (defined as an over-abundance of free radicals which are not sufficiently quenched by antioxidants) worsens inflammation. But, this can be easily reversed with enough vegetables, fruits in moderation and a high-antioxidant supplement.
Stress and Cortisol
There is a publicly accepted long-term myth that stress raises your blood pressure. It does short term, and most experts still say it doesn’t raise it or can’t raise it long term. However, high cortisol can cause leaky gut, which disturbs the microbiome and indeed does potentially elevate blood pressure. So, based on current research, it’s now not a myth anymore! Let me explain.
Your Microbiome-the Shocker for most!
Leaky gut is caused by everything from a poor diet to proton pump inhibitor antacid drugs. It sometimes produces no symptoms, but it always causes internal inflammation which you know is associated with hypertension. But there’s more!
Doesn’t it seem that lately, you read that all aspects of your health are more and more related to the health of your gut? Well, it turns out that an unhealthy gut microbiome with less “healthy bacteria” (a dysbiotic gut) will cause hypertension; via a different mechanism than through leaky gut and/or inflammation. It also seems that “hypertensive GI tracts” have fewer bacteria which produce (healthy) butyrate and acetate. In fact, two comprehensive studies show that a course of the antibiotic minocycline will improve the dysbiosis and reverse hypertension (in rats). Whether or not the herbal remedies for SIBO would accomplish the same results is unstudied and therefore unknown.
Biotoxins such as mold and Lyme toxins as well as heavy metals such as lead and mercury can damage the microbiome, and via other mechanisms, including (most often) the sirtuin pathway; and raise blood pressure. Next, let’s talk about sirtuins.
Sirtuins are enzymes which are produced in decreased amounts in many metabolic disorders such as obesity and metabolic syndrome. SIRT1 (the most well-known and studied sirtuin) causes an increase in leptin sensitivity. It also increases adiponectin production. Both of these actions have both anti-obesity and therefore anti-hypertensive effects. Disorders of mitochondrial function (which are increasingly linked to toxins) such as Parkinson’s disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or Chronic fatigue syndrome are also associated with SIRT1 deficiency, with a built-in risk for metabolic syndrome, including hypertension.
Eat Nitric Oxide Enhancing Foods or take Supplements
Nitric oxide (NO) protects the lining of blood vessels and vasodilates as well. When arteries are damaged by inflammation, we see a decrease in nitric oxide near the smooth muscle linings of the blood vessels. In general, nitric oxide levels tend to decrease with age. To some degree, HIIT exercise enhances NO, but to make sure your levels are adequate, try foods or supplements. Below are some foods which raise NO levels.
Beetroot Juice (Beet Juice)
It is high in NO3 which converts to NO. An 8-ounce glass per day will lower your blood pressure (on average) 8 mm Hg (systolic) and 4 mm Hg (diastolic); demonstrated in those with existing hypertension. Examples of vegetables high in NO3 include whole beets, celery, cabbage, leeks, scallions, radishes, kale, turnip tops, spinach, mustard greens, eggplant, carrots, and string beans. To clarify, a good NO supplement will contain l-arginine and l-citrulline. Bodybuilders typically use these supplements for the increased “pump,” and some men use them to enhance erectile function.
It’s a well-known medical fact that vitamin D deficiency is associated with arterial stiffness and subsequent hypertension, but a large study involving over 100,000 individuals has now demonstrated that low vitamin D levels can actually cause high blood pressure. To make the correlation even stronger; the highest vitamin D levels were shown to lower hypertension risk the most. High-D foods include the healthiest fish, wild sockeye salmon, and sardines, as well as eggs (only eat “pastured” please). Note that the vast majority of people are clinically vitamin D deficient unless they take D3+K supplements; with most individuals requiring a minimum of 6000 IU’s per day.
Experimenting with Supplements and “Integratives”
Natural vitamin E (200 IU’s per day) has been shown to lower blood pressure. Natural vitamin E is always listed as the “d-” form (d-alpha-tocopherol, d-beta-tocopherol). Synthetic vitamin E is listed as “dl-” forms. Don’t take synthetic vitamin E, as it’s ineffective and might even cause harm.
Studies (meaning a review of 29 studies) seem to indicate that 500 mg of vitamin C per day might be helpful in lowering blood pressure.
This also happens to be the amount of natural E and C that is contained in the supplement I recommend to everyone who doesn’t consistently consume this amount of C plus E daily.
This can lower blood pressure by 10%, but only if you take it as a supplement. Although allicin is produced when raw garlic is crushed or chewed, much of it is destroyed during cooking. For about ten years, researchers have been aware the allicin made from alliin in garlic blocks the activity of angiotensin II—a substance that raises blood pressure. In addition, supplemental garlic elevates levels of nitric oxide.
Note, however, the health benefits of garlic supplements are due to ajoene, diithins, and allicin; not just due to allicin. So, shop carefully since ajoene and diithins are considerably more potent than “just allicin.”
Polyphenols, Flavonoids, and Herbs
There is a plethora of research in progress about lowering blood pressure with polyphenols such as the one we associate with brain health via its role as a BDNF supplement and leptin-reducer; resveratrol. Flavonoids such as green tea (EGCG) and pomegranate extract show promise for hypertension as well. Studies looking at herbs such as curcumin, ginger and hawthorn extract are also quite encouraging.
I’ve saved this for last because I think it is going to show a lot of promise and not just for blood pressure reduction.
In fact, research published in 2018 has demonstrated that nattokinase enzymes have potent fibrinolytic (blood-clot-busting) activity, anti-atherosclerotic, lipid-lowering, antiplatelet (anti-platelet stickiness), and even neuroprotective effects.
In addition, with regards to the topic of this article, a well done double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study showed that supplementing with nattokinase for eight weeks resulted in a significant reduction of both diastolic and systolic blood pressure.
Nattokinase is an enzyme found in the food natto, which is a fermented soy product. Whether consumed as fermented soy or as a supplement, the natto enzyme has been used successfully for 25 years to treat hypertension and a variety of circulatory issues.
Certainly, this is only the beginning of natto research in its entirety.
To conclude, I hope this comprehensive article has been helpful to you.
Effects of nattokinase on blood pressure: a randomized, controlled trial.
Nattokinase: A Promising Alternative in Prevention and Treatment of Cardiovascular Diseases
Inorganic Nitrate and Beetroot Juice Supplementation Reduces Blood Pressure in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
JAMA Internal Medicine 2014;174(4):516-524. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/1819573
Natural approaches in metabolic syndrome management
Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals as Dietary Intervention in Chronic Diseases; Novel Perspectives for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention.
Traditional herbs: a remedy for cardiovascular disorders.
Polyphenol protection and treatment of hypertension.
Antihypertensive role of polyphenols.
Vasculoprotective Effects of Pomegranate (Punica granatum L.)
Published online 2015 Apr 13. doi: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.115.05315
Gut Microbiota Dysbiosis is Linked to Hypertension
Tao Yang, Monica M. Santisteban, Vermali Rodriguez, Eric Li, Niousha Ahmari, Jessica Marulanda Carvajal, Mojgan Zadeh, Minghao Gong, Yanfei Qi, Jasenka Zubcevic, Bikash Sahay, Carl J. Pepine, Mohan K. Raizada, and Mansour Mohamadzadeh
Gut microbiota in hypertension
Oxidative Stress and Vascular Function: Implications for Pharmacologic Treatments