Life Extension Magazine March 2010
Reduce Blood Pressure—Naturally
What Americans Can Learn from Traditional Cultures about Managing Hypertension
By William Davis, MD
French Maritime Bark Extract
Numerous studies point to the efficacy of a novel antioxidant compound of proanthocyanidins and bioflavonoids isolated from bark of the French maritime pine that grows along the southern coast of France.
A University of Arizona study documented 50% reduced need for blood pressure medication in diabetic participants taking 125 mg of this compound per day.57 Interestingly, there was a 23.7 mg/dL drop in blood sugar and 0.8% reduction in hemoglobin A1c (a measure of long-term blood sugar control). Another study demonstrated reduced need for calcium blocker medication in participants given 100 mg per day.58
French maritime bark extract exerts its antihypertensive effects by blocking the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE)—similar to the mechanism of the prescription ACE inhibitors enalapril and lisinopril—enhancing endothelial (vessel lining) responsiveness, and blocking the effects of adrenaline (epinephrine).59
Anthocyanins are a class of plant flavonoids that confer the red, purple, and blue color to cranberries, blueberries, eggplant, grapes, red wine, pomegranate, and other similarly colored fruits and vegetables. Anthocyanins are proving to be powerful standouts for health effects among the many thousands of flavonoids and polyphenols identified to date.
A Finnish study of 72 middle-aged subjects examined the effects of consuming two servings of berries daily (alternating schedule of 100 g whole bilberries and a 50 g crushed lingonberry nectar; or black currant or strawberry purée and cold-pressed chokeberry and raspberry juice) compared to a non-berry containing calorie-matched control. Anthocyanins represented the dominant flavonoid at 275 mg of the total polyphenols of 837 mg per day. The berry group experienced a reduction in systolic blood pressure of 7.3 mmHg, along with 5.2% increase in HDL.60 A study of 50 mL (almost 2 oz) of anthocyanin-rich pomegranate juice reduced blood pressure by about 12%, in addition to reducing carotid intima-media thickness.61
Like French maritime bark extract and vitamin D, anthocyanins are natural inhibitors of the angiotensin-converting enzyme that increases blood pressure.62 The production of the natural and powerful artery-relaxing agent, nitric oxide, is also increased by anthocyanins.63
Some of the richest sources of anthocyanins are elderberries, chokeberries, and bilberries, which are difficult to find in the US, but may be obtained as nutritional supplements and extracts.
In addition to magnesium’s capacity to help manage asthma attacks, migraine headaches, eclampsia and pre-eclampsia of pregnancy, heart rhythm disorders, and preserve kidney function,64,65 magnesium supplementation has been conclusively shown to reduce blood pressure.66 Magnesium deficiency contributes an even larger blood pressure-increasing effect in the setting of a modern American diet deficient in magnesium and rich in fructose—a situation that increases inflammation and the potential for metabolic syndrome.67
In one recent study, magnesium supplementation reduced systolic blood pressure by 5.6 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 2.8 mmHg.68 People with heart disease may derive even greater effects. A study of 50 participants with advanced heart disease demonstrated a 9.0 mmHg drop in systolic pressure with 500 mg elemental magnesium supplementation, despite serum magnesium levels in the normal range.69
The blood pressure-reducing effects of magnesium supplementation may be especially marked in those with low serum magnesium levels. A study of supplementation in diabetic participants starting with low serum magnesium levels demonstrated an astounding 20.4 mmHg drop in systolic blood pressure and an 8.7 mmHg drop in diastolic pressure with 450 mg of elemental magnesium daily.70
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
In addition to the triglyceride- and cardiovascular event-reducing effects of omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil, these fascinating oils also modestly reduce blood pressure. Daily intake of 1,000-3,000 mg of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA reduces systolic blood pressure by about 2.1 mmHg and diastolic pressure by about 1.6 mmHg.71 These blood pressure-reducing effects are accomplished via blocking the angiotensin system, promoting arterial relaxation (normalization of endothelial dysfunction), reduced production of inflammatory mediators, and reduced production of artery constricting factors.72
Red wine in modest quantities has been demonstrated to reduce risk for cardiovascular disease.73 Much attention has focused on the polyphenol resveratrol, originating from red wine and grapes as a principal source of benefits, including potential life-extending effects due to activation of the sirtuin genes.74
Resveratrol has been shown to inhibit the angiotensin-converting enzyme as a means to modestly reduce blood pressure,75 and also restores production of the natural artery-dilating agent, nitric oxide.76,77
In a preliminary study, this amino acid reduced systolic blood pressure 9 mmHg in subjects taking 1,000 mg twice per day.78 In addition, acetyl-L-carnitine improved insulin responses and reduced blood sugar.
Because nocturnal hypertension has been associated with increased risk for cardiovascular events,79 the effect of melatonin on nighttime hypertension has been studied.
In addition to its sleep-enhancing effects, melatonin taken at or before bedtime reduces blood pressure during sleep. One study examined the effects of nightly dosing of 2.5 mg in 16 men; melatonin reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure during sleep by 6 and 4 mmHg, respectively.80 Another study of 38 men demonstrated that 2 mg of a controlled-release melatonin preparation reduced systolic pressure by 6 mmHg and diastolic pressure by 3 mmHg during sleep.81
The virtual absence of hypertension in traditional cultures suggests that high blood pressure is, for most of us, a situation we create with modern diet and lifestyle. Reverting back to basic foods, especially reducing or eliminating wheat grains, cornstarch, and sugars, can reduce blood pressure substantially. Select nutrients, many of which restore nutrients that were more readily obtained by traditional eating habits but are lacking in the modern day diet, can also reduce blood pressure. While not everyone starting such a program during adulthood can hope to entirely avoid hypertension, these steps might help minimize the potential of developing this dangerous condition.
If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Health Advisor at 1-866-864-3027.
Dr. William Davis campaigns for the cause of heart disease reversal. He practices cardiology in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and is author of the book, Track Your Plaque (iUniverse, Inc., 2004). Dr. Davis can be contacted through www.trackyourplaque.com.
In this article, Dr. Davis has provided us with an abundance of natural methods to lower blood pressure.
As Dr. Davis noted in the introduction, even modest blood pressure readings above 115/75 sharply increase cardiovascular disease risk. Yet conventional doctors are allowing their aging patient’s blood pressure to reach dangerous levels of 140/90 before initiating anti-hypertensive therapy.
In fact, the home page of a pharmaceutical company’s web site (www.diovan.com) defines high blood pressure as 140/90 or higher.
This drug company is acting against its own economic interest by limiting the number of people who are candidates for its anti-hypertensive drug, while disseminating erroneous lethal information to the public.
We urge most Life Extension members to maintain their blood pressure at 115/75 (or lower) using natural methods first. If blood pressure remains stubbornly high, we suggest a safe and effective class of anti-hypertensive drugs be used called angiotensin II receptor antagonists. One of these drugs we have recommended for over a decade is called Cozaar® and it should be taken twice a day to maintain 24-hour control over blood pressure. Another drug in this class called Benicar® claims 24-hour blood pressure control with once a day dosing.
You should not trust any medication to provide 24-hour blood pressure control. If you are prescribed Benicar® or any other anti-hypertensive, use an at-home blood pressure monitoring device to make sure the drug is providing all-day control of blood pressure at the optimal range of 115/75 or lower. A major error in using anti-hypertensive drugs is that they wear off later in the day allowing blood pressure to spike to dangerously high levels.
You can obtain reliable at-home blood pressure monitors at your local pharmacy, or you can order one by phone by calling 1-800-544-4440.
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