Heart disease and stroke are the first and third causes of death,
respectively, in the United States. Hypertension is the major risk
factor for heart disease and stroke. (1) According to the American Heart
Association's "Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics, 2005
Update," high blood pressure killed nearly 50,000 Americans in 2002
and was listed as a primary or contributing factor in 261,000 deaths.
The guidelines issued in 2003 by the National Heart, Lung and Blood
Institute state that nearly half of all American adults have blood
pressure readings that are too high! Fifty per cent of these have
hypertension. The other half has prehypertension, a condition that makes
high blood pressure and its sequela, cardiovascular and renal disease,
more likely. By definition, anyone with a systolic reading higher than
119 or a diastolic reading of 79 or more has prehypertension. (2) For
those of us truly interested in health, wellness and services designed
to promote longevity, it is clear that any "wellness care
approach" that does not at least monitor and counsel on blood
pressure is inadequate.
Starting as low as 115/75, the risk of heart attack and stroke
doubles with every 20-point jump in systolic blood pressure and/or every
10-point rise in diastolic blood pressure. People with prehypertension
(blood pressure greater then 119/79)--levels once considered
normal--face twice the risk of heart disease as those with normal blood
pressure. People with frank hypertension (blood pressure greater than
139/89) have four times the risk of heart disease as people with low
blood pressure. (3) According to NaturalStandard.com's
"Monograph on High Blood Pressure," evidence suggests that
reducing the blood pressure by 5-6 mmHg can decrease the risk of stroke
by 40%, the risk of coronary heart disease by 15-20% and reduce the
likelihood of dementia, heart failure and mortality from vascular
What to Do?
Unless there are other predominant risk factors, such as diabetes
or kidney disease, heavy smoking, alcoholism, a personal history or
strong family history of heart and kidney disease, many doctors are
reticent to prescribe medications for prehypertension, usually
diuretics, given their potential for side-effects. (5) However,
lifestyle factors should always be addressed. The Mayo Clinic provides
lifestyle guidelines, including the following:
* Losing 10 pounds can help to reduce your blood pressure
significantly and makes any blood pressure medications (and presumably
nutraceuticals) more effective. Carrying too much weight around your
waist, a sign of metabolic syndrome, increases your risk of high blood
pressure. In general, men and women are considered to be at risk if
their waist measurement is greater than 40 inches (102 cm) or 35 inches
(88 cm), respectively. For Asians, guidelines are 36 inches (90 cm) and
32 inches (80 cm).
* Regular physical activity--at least 30-60 minutes most days of
the week--can lower your blood pressure by 4-9 mmHg. Even moderate
activity for 10 minutes at a time, such as walking and light strength
training, can help.
* Eating a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables
and low-fat dairy products and skimps on saturated fat, sodium and
cholesterol can lower your blood pressure by up to 14 mmHg. This eating
plan is known as the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension)
* Alcohol in small amounts can help to prevent heart attacks and
coronary artery disease and potentially lower your blood pressure by
2.5-4 mmHg. But that protective effect is lost if you drink too much
alcohol--generally more than one drink a day for women and more than two
a day for men.
* As well as all the other dangers of smoking, the nicotine in
tobacco products can raise your blood pressure by 10 mmHg or more for up
to an hour after you smoke.
* The role that caffeine plays in blood pressure is still
debatable. Drinking caffeinated beverages can temporarily cause a spike
in sensitive people. Regardless of your sensitivity to caffeine's
effects, the Mayo Clinic recommends that you drink no more than 200 mg a
day, about the amount in two cups of coffee. (6)
Although not mentioned in the guidelines per se, the need for
adequate deep sleep and the correction of sleep apnea has become more
apparent. (7) Of course, all these concerns are basic to the antiageing
and wellness lifestyle, regardless of blood pressure.
Check for Medications
Researchers at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital
found that older men using NSAIDS or acetaminophen (Tylenol) daily were
at a 38% and 34% higher risk of hypertension, respectively. According to
Joe Graedon, a pharmacologist, and Tersa Gordon, PhD, coauthors of
"The Best Choices from the People's Pharmacy," both HRT
and decongestants can be culprits. Also, many headache pain pills
contain caffeine. Decongestants that contain pseudoepinephrine, such as
Sudafed, need to be considered. The side-effects panels on any
prescription medicines should be reviewed to see if hypertension is a
Natural Remedies for Prehypertension
Fortunately, there are also many OTC nutraceuticals that show
potential in significantly lowering blood pressure. (8) These include
phytonutrients (grape seed extract, quercetin, cocoa, green tea
extracts, hawthorne berries, pomegranate, hibiscus tea, lycopene
extracts and soy isoflavones), zoonutrients (milk, whey peptides and
even peptides formed in fried eggs!) and fats (olive oil, flax oil, fish
oil), though the latter to a lesser degree. (9-19) John Zhang, MD, PhD,
associate professor of research at Logan Chiropractic College has
authored two human studies on physician-strength nutraceuticals and
prehypertension/hypertension. These studies included testing a
multi-ingredient phytonutrient "greens" powdered drink mix, a
multi-ingredient whey and colostrum-based zoonutrient powdered drink mix
(both formulated with liposomes to enhance bioavailability) and a
combination of the two nutraceutical powders together.
In 90 days, the phytonutrient formula lowered both systolic and
diastolic blood pressure (12.4 and 7.1, respectively). The zoonutrient
formula had a similar effect, eliciting reductions of 13.4 and 8.2,
respectively, and the combined powder lowered the systolic pressure by
10.9 and the diastolic pressure by 13.9. These preliminary studies
showed an average decrease in systolic blood pressure of 12.6 points and
a decrease in diastolic blood pressure of 9.7. The results match those
achieved using a combined DASH/low sodium diet (DASH II) or a commonly
prescribed blood pressure medication. (20), (21) Recent Logan
Chiropractic College studies are referenced below. (22), (23) If they
are to be effective, most nutraceuticals will show efficacy in essential
prehypertension in 60 days. If not, as there are several different
mechanisms by which they are proposed to work, and a variety of genetic
phenotypes in any patient population, trying another nutraceutical
approach or two is worth a try, considering the potential morbidity of
high blood pressure.
(1.) University of Pennsylvania Health Systems, Hypertensive Heart
Disease, General Cardiology, Health Encyclopedia
(2.) NIH News, US Department of Health and Human Sciences,
"NHLBI Issues New High Blood Pressure Clinical Practice
Guidelines," 14 May 2003
(3.) Medscape, Medical News, "New Guidelines for Blood
Pressure Management," 19 May 2003
(4.) Natural Standard Research Collaboration, Natural Standard
Monograph, High Blood Pressure
(5.) Center for Medical Consumers, "Prehypertension: New
Medical Condition Identified,"
(6.) MayoClinic.com, "10 Ways to Control High Blood Pressure
(7.) D.S. Silverberg, A. Iaina and A. Oksenberg, "Treating
Obstructive Sleep Apnea Improves Essential Hypertension and Quality of
Life," Am. Fam. Physician 65(2), 229-236 (2002).
(8.) M.C. Houston, "The Role of Vascular Biology, Nutrition
and Nutraceuticals in the Prevention and Treatment of
Hypertension," JANA, Suppl. 1, 20-40 (2002).
(9.) H. Negishi, et al., "Black and Green Tea Polyphenols
Attenuate Blood Pressure Increases in Stroke-Prone Spontaneously
Hypertensive Rats," J. Nutr. 134, 38-42 (2004).
(10.) C.G. Fraga, "Cocoa, Diabetes and Hypertension: Should We
Eat More Chocolate?" Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 81(3), 541-542 (2005).
(11.) M. Rivas, et al., "Soy Milk Lowers Blood Pressure in Men
and Women with Mild to Moderate Essential Hypertension," J. Nutr.
132, 1900-1902 (2002).
(12.) S. Teres, et al., "Oleic Acid Content is Responsible for
the Reduction in Blood Pressure Induced by Olive Oil," Proc. Natl
Acad. Sci. USA 105(37), 13811-13816 (2008).
(13.) K. Radack, et al., "The Effects of Low Doses of n-3
Fatty Acid Supplementation on Blood Pressure in Hypertensive
Subjects," Arch. Intern. Med. 151, 1173-1180 (1991).
(14.) G.K. Paschos, et al., "Dietary Supplementation with
Flaxseed Oil Lowers Blood Pressure in Dyslipidaemic Patients," Eur.
J. Clin. Nutr. 61(10), 1201-1206 (2007).
(15.) K. Majumder and J. Wu, "Angiotensin I Converting Enzyme
Inhibitory Peptides from Simulated In Vitro Gastrointestinal Digestion
of Cooked Eggs," J. Agric. Food Chem. 57(2), 471-477 (2009).
(16.) Ibid. 5, 36-40.
(17.) Ibid. 2, 980s-988s.
(18.) American Chemical Society's National Meeting and
Exposition, "Grape Seed Extract for Blood Pressure? Grape Seed
Extract May Help Tame Prehypertension,"
(19.) R.L. Edwards, et al., "Quercetin Reduces Blood Pressure
in Hypertensive Subjects," Nutr. 137, 2405-2411 (2007).
(20.) C.D. Furberg, et al., "Antihypertensive and Lipid
Lowering Treatment to Prevent Heart Attack Trial (ALLHAT), JAMA 288(23),
(21.) Ibid. 9, 20.
(22.) J. Zhang, G. Oxinos and J. Maher, "The Effect of Fruit
and Vegetable Powder Mix on Hypertensive Subjects," J. Chiropr.
Educ. 21(1), 93 (2007) and
(23.) J. Zhang and J. Maher, "The Effects of Whey Zoonutrient
Powder Alone and Combined with a Green Phytonutrient Powder on Heart
Rate Variability and Pre-Hypertension and Stage 1 Hypertension," J.
Chiropr. Educ. 23(1), 88 (2009) and
On its website, the American Heart Association has a simple
"High Blood Pressure Health Risk
Calculator"--www.americanheart.org/beatyourrisk/en_US/main.html--and The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute provides "Your Guide
to Lowering Your Blood Pressure" at
For more information
Dr John H. Maher, DCBCN, BCIM
Director, Education and Research
BioPharma Scientific, Inc.
9010 Kenamar Drive, Suite 101
San Diego, California 92121, USA.
Tel. +1 858 622 9493