By Kimberly Beauchamp, ND
Healthnotes Newswire (June 8, 2006)—A little extra calcium may be just what the doctor will order to help bring down high blood pressure. According to a recent report published in the Journal of Human Hypertension, supplementing with about 1,000 mg of calcium each day could significantly reduce blood pressure.
An isolated high blood pressure reading may not be of particular concern, but when blood pressure remains elevated over time, the risk for developing cardiovascular disease rises. Studies have shown that eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables contributes to lower blood pressure, and that adding low-fat dairy products to this type of diet further enhances the beneficial effects. “This may partly be attributable to extra calcium,” say the authors of the new study.
Of the 50 million Americans who have high blood pressure, 15 million don’t even know that they suffer from it. Although the cause is largely unknown, smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, and being overweight and sedentary increase the chance of developing high blood pressure. It is also more common in blacks than in any other racial group.
The top number of a blood pressure reading is called the systolic pressure and the bottom is the diastolic pressure. Blood pressure should ideally be less than 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mmHg). High blood pressure is defined as when either the systolic pressure rises above 140 mmHg and/or the diastolic pressure rises above 90 mmHg.
To determine the effect of supplemental calcium on blood pressure, researchers from the Netherlands summarized the findings of 40 different studies, including almost 2,500 people, about one-half of whom had high blood pressure. The average length of the trials was ten weeks, during which the people took about 1,200 mg of calcium per day.
Overall, calcium supplementation led to a 1.9 point drop in systolic blood pressure and a 1.0 point drop in diastolic pressure. While these decreases may seem modest, Dr. Marianne Geleijnse, a member of the research team, said, “Indeed, the overall blood pressure effect that we found for 1 gram (1,000 mg) of extra calcium per day was small. However, our data suggest that the blood pressure effect might be larger in populations with a low habitual intake of calcium.” She added, “There are large differences in calcium intake among countries. In the Netherlands, we consume over 1,100 mg of calcium per day, whereas in the United States this is less than 800 mg, and even lower in African Americans.”
Supplementing with extra calcium might be a simple way to help bring down high blood pressure. Dr. Geleijnse noted, “A blood pressure reduction of only 5 mmHg is relevant, because it may result in 20% fewer heart attacks and 30% fewer strokes.”
(J Hum Hypertens: advance e-publication, 4 May 2006; doi:10.1038/sj.jhh.1002038)
Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She cofounded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI. Dr. Beauchamp practices as a birth doula and lectures on topics including whole-foods nutrition, detoxification, and women’s health.
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