For our first installment of our Ask A Doctor series, we talked to Martin Milner, M.A., N.D, a Board Certified Naturopathic Physician in Oregon. He is the founder, CEO, and medical director of the Portland-based Center for Natural Medicine, Inc., the first certified naturopathic Patient Centered Primary Care Home in the United States.
Q: Are there supplements I can take to help support healthy blood pressure?
A: Absolutely! Keeping your blood pressure in a healthy range is critical. High blood pressure is particularly nefarious because while it has no symptoms, it can cause serious problems, such as stroke, heart attack, and heart failure. You may have heard that the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association recently redefined high blood pressure, which means that many more people have the disease than ever before.
What is blood pressure?
Blood pressure is the force created as blood pushes against the walls of the arteries while traveling throughout the body. The two numbers on a blood pressure reading are:
When my patients come to me needing to get their blood pressure under control, I always recommend taking a look at their diet first. Research shows the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) can help. The DASH diet includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods. It also emphasizes whole grains, fish, poultry, and nuts, while reducing red meats, sweets, and sugared beverages.
If you find the DASH diet difficult to follow, the Mediterranean Diet is similar, as it encourages you to eat more whole foods. And whole foods that have been minimally processed to retain their nutrient content will naturally cut down your intake of sodium – another recommendation I make to patients with high blood pressure. The U.S. recommended dietary allowance of sodium is 2,300 milligrams, but I like my patients to keep it to 2,000 milligrams daily, especially if their blood pressure is difficult to control.
To fill in any nutrient gaps in your diet, I recommend the following supplements:
- An optimal blood level of L-Arginine is critical for vascular health. Your endothelium – the layer of cells that line your blood vessels – relies on this amino acid for a healthy production of nitric oxide. In turn, nitric oxide plays a key role in vascular health, including promoting blood vessel relaxation and optimal blood flow.
- These belong to the vitamin E family. Once absorbed into the body, tocotrienols are readily taken up by cell membranes where they help neutralize harmful free radicals and help maintain cell membrane fluidity, which promotes healthy blood vessel function.
Choline and Pantethine
- These are both building blocks of acetylcholine, an important biochemical messenger involved in helping to maintain healthy blood pressure balance and aids in heart rate regulation.
Finally, don’t forget to exercise! Moving your body regularly strengthens your heart, which enables it to pump blood more efficiently. As the heart strengthens in response to regular exercise, cardiovascular endurance improves and heart rates tend to lower, making the heart not have to work as hard during daily activity. The less your heart has to work to pump, the less force the blood puts on your arteries, lowering your blood pressure.
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