By Valerie Robitaille, MS, PhD(c)
If you have hypertension and are working with your doctor to lower your blood pressure, you probably already know how harmful certain foods and behaviors are to your health. Consuming excessive amounts of sodium, saturated and trans fatty acids, and lack of exercise all contribute to the development and exacerbation of this condition.
Specific nutrients can prevent, control and treat hypertension, as well as standard medicines do, without debilitating side effects. These include vitamin C, potassium, magnesium and CoQ10, and they work by relaxing the arteries, protecting the lining of the blood vessels and disarming dangerous oxidants (free radicals).
There are 4 major types of widely prescribed drugs for hypertension: diuretics, beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors and calcium channel blockers.
If you are taking any of these medications you need to understand their side effects, mainly how the drugs disrupt the proper ratios of minerals, and how to use supplements to bring the body back into balance.
Diuretics help you eliminate water caused by sodium retention but they also cause loss of other minerals, mainly potassium, magnesium and calcium, which are essential to proper heart functioning. If you are taking a diuretic your doctor has probably prescribed potassium also, but are you replacing the other lost minerals as well? And if you must have some salt please make sure it is natural sea salt that has not been refined or had any iodine or anti-caking agents added to it. It is my belief and my experience that the mineral imbalance of commercial table salt is what’s hazardous to your health, not a little bit of salt in general. Food and supplements that act as natural diuretics include hawthorn berry, vitamin B6, taurine, celery, protein, CoQ10 and vitamin C.
Beta-blockers that slow the heart rate are slightly outdated, but some doctors still prescribe them for high blood pressure. These drugs can cause serious irregularities in the heart and may worsen blood vessel problems reducing circulation to the extremities (such as in diabetes). This information, along with other serious side effects, is listed on the drug information insert that comes with
your prescription. A natural beta blocker is hawthorn berry, but if you must take the drug, ginger is very helpful to the circulation.
The most common side effect of an ACE inhibitor is a nagging persistent cough. These drugs can also cause an imbalance in potassium levels (too much) which in turn, may create cardiac irregularities – the very thing they are prescribed to prevent. Garlic, tuna, sardines, hawthorn berry, whey protein and omega-3 fatty acids are just some of the foods that act as natural ACE inhibitors.
Having your mineral levels checked periodically is important when taking any of these drugs to ensure they are balanced in the body, and that you will not have additional problems if they are not.
Finally, food and supplements that act as natural calcium channel blockers include alpha-lipoic acid, vitamin B6, hawthorn berry, garlic and n-acetyl-cysteine.
It is important that you understand you should not go all out and start taking these supplements while you are taking your prescription drugs as they will work along with your hypertension medicine and may cause your blood pressure to drop too low. Talk to your primary health provider and in every case make changes slowly. It didn’t take a week or even a year to develop high blood pressure, and lifestyle changes that last take time too.