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Health notes: Handling high blood pressure

Arm with blood pressure cuff

Arm with blood pressure cuff

Handling high blood pressure

High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects about 30 percent of U.S. adults and is expected to increase even further in the next decade or two.

Early-stage hypertension often does not cause any physical symptoms, but left untreated it can lead to heart disease, stroke, dementia and kidney failure.

Medications will lower the risk of potential complications of this disease. Unfortunately, blood pressure medications also tend to be very expensive and often cause side effects.

But there are many changes you can make to your lifestyle to reduce your risk of developing hypertension, or to reduce your need for medication if you already have been diagnosed.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore recently published a summary of clinical trials from 1966 to 2011, looking at the effect of vitamin C supplements on blood pressure. They found that vitamin C lowered blood systolic blood pressure by almost 5 points and diastolic blood pressure by almost 2 points, especially in people who were already taking medication for hypertension. The median intake of vitamin C was about 500 mg per day.

Vitamin C seems to promote relaxation of blood vessels, and this is probably the mechanism by which it helped to lower blood pressure in these studies.

Other measures include a low-sodium diet which is high in vegetables, fruit, and fiber; the Mediterranean diet, which is high in plant food and fiber as well as fish, seafood and olive oil; dietary supplements including magnesium, Vitamin D, Co-enzyme Q-10, grape seed extract, as well as exercise and mind-body therapies.


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