Dr. Roach: Many can avoid high blood pressure meds with natural remedies
Dear Dr. Roach: What are some natural ways to reduce blood pressure?
Dear J.W.: Too often, physicians jump to medication treatment to control blood pressure, when there are non-drug ways of reducing blood pressure that are often overlooked.
Not every person with high blood pressure is salt-sensitive, but overall, reducing salt can make a significant improvement in high blood pressure — an average of 5 points systolic and 3 points diastolic from moderate salt restriction. Other dietary changes proven to improve high blood pressure include high potassium foods, such as fruits; a more plant-based diet with more vegetables and legumes and less meat; and higher calcium and magnesium in the diet.
Alcohol can have an extremely large harmful effect on blood pressure in many people, especially the day after drinking three or more drinks. Smoking also raises blood pressure, and quitting has many health benefits beyond the drop in blood pressure. Regular moderate-intensity exercise (40 minutes three or four times weekly) similarly improves blood pressure.
There is evidence for benefit from some supplements. A study on aged garlic supplements was methodologically strong and showed a drop in systolic blood pressure an average of 5 points. Smaller trials showed benefit with the supplements berberine and whey protein. Dark chocolate and decaf coffee/tea have small beneficial effects.
Finally, some types of meditation have been shown to help lower blood pressure. Even slow, deep breathing techniques can lower blood pressure in the short term.
Not everybody with high blood pressure can avoid medications with these natural remedies, but there are many who can, and many of these natural remedies have additional health benefits beyond blood pressure.
Dear Dr. Roach: My husband, his brother and their mother all have had dangerous blood clots that have traveled to their lungs with no prior warning. My concern is for my 26-year-old daughter, who is currently on hormonal birth control, and any other lifestyle changes she should make.
She has tested negative for Factor V. I have read that there are other ways besides Factor V that involve hereditary blood clotting. I would feel more confident that she is in the clear if my husband tested positive and her negative. My husband’s doctor has said that testing him for Factor V would not be reliable because he is currently on blood thinners.
Shouldn’t the cause of my husband’s blood clots be investigated more? What would you recommend at this point?
Dear C.M.: That degree of family history is concerning enough that I would certainly recommend a visit with a hematologist to explore the possibility of an inherited form of thrombophilia (increased propensity to blood clots). The Factor V Leiden mutation is one, and one that CAN be tested for while on anticoagulants. But there are quite a few others, some of which cannot be tested for while on specific anticoagulants, such as protein C and S deficiency while on warfarin. The information is most useful not for the person with the history of the clot (I suspect your husband is on lifelong anticoagulation), but for their family members.
Both a family history of blood clotting and oral contraceptives containing estrogen are risks for developing blood clots for your daughter. I would consider a different form of birth control, such as an IUD, in a woman with a family history like hers, unless there was an identifiable reason in her father, uncle and grandmother that she was proven NOT to have, just as you said.
Readers may email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu.