High Blood Pressure: Complementary Treatments

It's no secret that exercise and a healthy diet are among the key ways to lower your blood pressure. But maybe you want to do more than that, and you're thinking about complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Turns out, you have good reason to.

In recent years, more and more studies show that some CAM treatments can lower your blood pressure. They're most helpful when used along with traditional medicine.

Keep in mind that for the most part, CAM treatments haven't had been as well studied as other types of treatment. So always check with your doctor before starting one to make sure it's safe for you.

Learn to Manage Your Stress

Stress kicks off a process in your body that makes your heart beat faster and raises your blood pressure. Now and then, that's OK, but a lot of stress over time can be a problem.

Research shows that calming techniques like these can lower your blood pressure:

Qi gong. This method, based on traditional Chinese medicine, combines slow movement, breathing, and meditation. It doesn't work as well at lowering your blood pressure as drugs or other types of physical activity, but it can still be helpful.

Slow breathing exercises. When you take slow, controlled breaths, you send calming signals to your nervous system, which can help with high blood pressure.

Meditation. Transcendental meditation (TM), where you sit quietly and repeat a given phrase to yourself, can have a modest effect on lowering blood pressure. Other types of meditation may help, too, but most of the research has focused on TM.

Tai chi. It's a slow, gentle form of exercise that comes from traditional Chinese medicine. Recent studies show that it could work as well as some high blood pressure meds or more intense exercise.

Yoga . It can be helpful for high blood pressure. Check with your doctor before you start. If you already have high blood pressure, you're pregnant, or you have conditions like glaucoma and sciatica, you may want to avoid or change certain poses.

Hypnosis. Some therapists use hypnosis, also called hypnotherapy, to help people manage stress and anxiety. When you get hypnosis, you tend to be calmer and more relaxed.

Some small studies show that it may also be helpful to lower your overall blood pressure, but more research is needed.

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Biofeedback

You can get biofeedback treatment for a range of issues, from pain to high blood pressure. It usually involves getting sensors connected to your body. These sensors give you information to help you make small changes, like relaxing your muscles, to help improve certain health conditions.

Acupuncture

Evidence for acupuncture has been mixed. Some studies show it works, but others don't.

Supplements and Herbs

More research is needed to figure out the benefits of supplements to manage high blood pressure. It's always best to make changes to what you eat rather than rely on dietary supplements that are in the form of pills. For instance, you may want to add fatty fish to your diet, such as salmon or tuna, which are high in omega-3s.

Also consider eating fiber that's found in plant foods such as oatmeal, veggies, or whole grains. Or you can get folic acid that's found in green, leafy vegetables.

Other supplements or foods that may be helpful are:

  • Minerals such as magnesium
  • Products like dark cocoa, coenzyme q10, and garlic. They boost nitric oxide, which helps your blood pressure.

Some people use herbs to manage blood pressure, such as garlic, hawthorne, cardamom, and celery seed. But the evidence to support them isn't clear.

Before you try supplements or herbs, talk to your doctor. They can have side effects and may not mix well with medicines you take.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on May 05, 2017

Sources

Mayo Clinic: "High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)," "Coenzyme Q10," "Biofeedback."

U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Complementary and alternative medicine approaches to blood pressure reduction," "Role of natural herbs in the treatment of hypertension," "Blood pressure lowering, fibrinolysis enhancing and antioxidant activities of cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum)," "High-dose folic acid supplementation effects on endothelial function and blood pressure in hypertensive patients: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials."

National Center for Complementary and Integrated Health: "Transcendental Meditation Helps Young Adults Cope With Stress," "Yoga: In-Depth."

American Heart Association, AHA Scientific Statement: "Beyond Medications and Diet: Alternative Approaches to Lowering Blood Pressure."

Medscape: "Tai Chi Resembles Drugs, Aerobics in Blood Pressure Lowering."

American Heart Association: "Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids," "Eating Flax Seed May Lower Blood Pressure."

Harvard Health Publications: "Folic acid, a B vitamin, lowers stroke risk in people with high blood pressure."

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