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Lowering Blood Pressure Naturally

By Rev. Laura Perry, N.D.

High blood pressure plagues 50 million adults (thatís 10 % of the population) in the U.S. The incidence of high blood pressure, or hypertension, rises steeply with age and the rate is higher in African-Americans than in the rest of the population. Hypertension is often a symptomless disease. By the time an individual develops headaches and palpitations, their blood pressure is often already dangerously high.

Why is hypertension such a danger to good health? Even mild hypertension lowers life expectancy and increases the risk of heart and brain disorders. Hypertension significantly increases the risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke and kidney failure.

How can something as seemingly benign as hypertension cause so much damage? Hypertension increases the pressure on artery walls, eventually damaging them and encouraging the formation of fatty streaks on the inner artery walls. Eventually the fatty deposits harden into plaque which erodes the artery walls, narrows the channel through which the blood flows and decreases the elasticity of the artery. This process of atherosclerosis is the cause of coronary artery disease and can also lead to stroke, gangrene and kidney damage. Hypertension also affects the brain, eyes and other organs by damaging blood vessels and thus interfering with the oxygen supply to these organs.

If hypertension is so damaging to the body, what are some safe and natural options for lowering blood pressure and preventing damage?
First, hypertension does not simply materialize out of thin air. Its causes may include poor kidney function (perhaps due to too much protein in the diet), atherosclerosis (perhaps due to a high-fat diet) and unmanaged or poorly-managed long-term stress. Given these possible causes, and the fact that vegetarians are less likely than omnivores to develop hypertension or heart disease, a natural solution presents itself.

A combination of dietary modification and stress management can be quite effective at controlling blood pressure without the dangerous side effects of antihypertensive drugs. Gentle herbs can be added to help restore the bodyís fluid balance and aid in relaxation and stress management.

A vegetarian or near-vegetarian diet rich in fruits and vegetables, very low in saturated fat, and rich in calcium sources such as dairy products, dark leafy greens and fortified soy products works best to lower blood pressure. This diet lowers blood pressure and may also lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and stroke. In fact, according to one study, this diet significantly lowers blood pressure regardless of whether sodium is restricted and regardless of whether the subject loses weight.

Hawthorn (Crataegus oxyacantha) flowers, leaves and berries lower blood pressure by gently dilating blood vessels. Hawthorn slows down and stabilizes heart muscle contractions, helping the heart to work more efficiently. Hawthorn may also inhibit the progression of atherosclerosis (for which hypertension is a risk factor) by decreasing blood levels of cholesterol, triglycerides and low-density lipoproteins, and by preventing cholesterol accumulation in the liver.
A number of other gentle herbs can be added to the diet, either in supplement form or simply as foods enjoyed at mealtime, to assist in lowering blood pressure and supplying valuable nutrients. Globe artichoke (Cynara scolynus) is a tasty addition to any meal and provides a mild diuretic effect. Parsley (Petroselinum crispum), a popular garnish and culinary herb, also has a diuretic effect. Fresh parsley is also rich in the antioxidant vitamins A, C and E for further protection from heart disease. Linden (Tilia europa) flowers, commonly served as tea, are also a mild diuretic as well as a peripheral vasodilator and relaxant. Linden may help heal blood vessel walls damaged by hypertension.

Several other herbs have clinically-proven blood pressure-lowering effects as well. Garlic (Allium sativum) lowers blood pressure as well as reducing the risk of blood clots, reducing serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels and keeping the aorta elastic. Angelica (Angelica archangelica) root contains fifteen compounds that are natural calcium-channel blockers. Angelica root has been shown in clinical studies to lower blood pressure.

Another factor in the development and exacerbation of hypertension is stress. People who have poor stress management skills, or who react to frustration with anger and rage, raise their blood pressure behaviorally. Regardless of any conventional treatments or natural remedies they may use, these people will continue to suffer from hypertension until they modify their behavior.
Natural approaches include dietary modifications that are very effective at lowering blood pressure. Herbal remedies also effectively support a healthy blood pressure, largely without the side effects associated with drugs. And natural approaches to alleviating hypertension include relaxation and behavior modification techniques that combat stress, thus helping to lower blood pressure and improve quality of life.

Rev. Laura Perry, N.D. is a naturopath based in Woodstock, Georgia. Contact her at 678-445-0357, or online at www.lauraperry.com..
 
 


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