Dear Pharmacist: Are there any natural remedies I can take for high blood pressure? I do take medicine but I want to stop because it makes me cough. Can you help? — T.L., Dallas, Texas
Answer: Promise to remain supervised by your physician before going off your medicine. Some have to be weaned; You can’t suddenly stop. High blood pressure is one of those things I consider a symptom rather than a disease itself. It is “silent,” meaning there are few obvious signs that you have it until a big event (for example, a heart attack). As blood pressure rises, you may get headaches in the back of the head which may feel worse in the morning upon arising. You may also experience dizziness, blurred vision, ringing in the ears, fatigue, nosebleeds or the urge to urinate at night.
So what are your options?
Losing weight by exercising will help. A better diet is a must. Because hypertension is a risk factor for heart attack and stroke, physicians take quick action and prescribe medications to lower blood pressure. Some common medications follow:
ACE inhibitors: Popular ones are lisinopril, benazepril and enalapril. These medications block your ACE enzyme. Natural foods and supplements that do the same thing in a gentler way include garlic, seaweed, pycnogenol, omega 3 fatty acids, egg yolks, zinc and hawthorn berries.
Calcium channel blockers: Verapamil, amlodipine and nifedipine. Medications in this category cause relaxation of the blood vessels. Natural options are omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, magnesium, vitamin E, vitamin C, hawthorn berries, NAC and lipoic acid. You should also eat celery.
Diuretics: Blockbusters like furosemide and hydrochlorothiazide. These medications cause you to urinate more which reduces the amount of fluid in your blood vessels. When you reduce the squeeze in those tiny cramped vessels, pressure goes down. Natural, gentle “water pills” include vitamin C, potassium, vitamin B6, hawthorn berry, taurine and CoQ10. Celery helps, too!
Certain foods and supplements are direct vasodilators, meaning they open up the blood vessels, thus relieving some pressure. These include taurine, potassium, omega 3 fatty acids and, you guessed it, celery! Even four stalks a week could help, but eat more if you like it. Compounds in celery like “3-n-butylphthalide” are known to reduce blood pressure. In China, this compound is extracted from celery seed and sold as a drug to reduce beta amylase-induced neuronal apoptosis. It confers protection for people with stroke, dementia and traumatic brain injury.
The final piece of the anti-hypertensive puzzle is the beautiful beet. Solid research shows that beets, and beetroot juice can help with blood pressure and cholesterol. Drink about a cup a day. I juice a beet quite often myself. Consider massage to control cortisol. Yoga is another fun, non-pharmacological way to reduce blood pressure and stress hormones. Plus, it makes you more flexible and strengthens your spine.
This information is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose your condition. Suzy Cohen is the author of “The 24-Hour Pharmacist.” For more information, visit www.dearpharmacist.com.