Lower Your Blood Pressure Naturally
By Kimberly Beauchamp, ND
Healthnotes Newswire (May 26, 2005)—A form of potassium found in fruits and vegetables may lower blood pressure as effectively as potassium chloride, a commonly used form of supplemental potassium that has been shown in previous studies to help lower blood pressure, reports Hypertension (2005;45:571–4).
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects more than 65 million Americans. It is defined as a systolic pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) of 140 mm Hg or greater and/or a diastolic pressure (the bottom number of a blood pressure reading) of 90 mm Hg or greater. African Americans are more likely than any other race to develop high blood pressure, and illness and death from hypertension-related causes are highest among this group.
In most cases, no single underlying cause of high blood pressure can be identified; this is referred to as “essential hypertension.” A family history of high blood pressure combined with other factors such as obesity, stress, inactive lifestyle, excessive alcohol consumption, diabetes, high sodium intake, and poor diet add to risk of hypertension. Untreated, high blood pressure can lead to heart attacks, stroke, hardening of the arteries, heart failure, and kidney damage.
Prescription drugs used to treat hypertension may include diuretics (hydrochlorothiazide [Esidrix™]), beta-blockers (atenolol [Tenormin™]), calcium channel blockers (nifedipine [Procardia™]), and ACE inhibitors (lisinopril [Zestril™]). Numerous side effects such as sexual dysfunction, dizziness, fatigue, and allergic reactions may limit the tolerability of these medications.
Potassium may help lower blood pressure by dilating blood vessels, enhancing the excretion of water and sodium from the body, and suppressing hormones that cause elevations in blood pressure. Fruits and vegetables contain potassium phosphate, potassium sulfate, and potassium citrate. Most of the studies concerning potassium and blood pressure have used potassium chloride, a form that does not occur naturally in foods and which, when taken in the large amounts used in these studies, can irritate and damage the stomach.
The new study compared the effects of two different forms of potassium on blood pressure in 14 people (average age 51 years) with essential hypertension. The participants were assigned to receive either 96 mmol (millimoles) potassium chloride per day or 96-mmol potassium citrate per day for one week. After one week with no supplementation, the treatments were switched for another week. Blood pressures were measured at the beginning of the study and at the end of each week.
The average systolic blood pressure fell by 11 mm Hg during treatment with potassium chloride and by 13 mm Hg after potassium citrate. The fall in diastolic pressure was 5 mm Hg with each supplement. Thus, each form of potassium produced approximately the same decrease in blood pressure.
These results suggest that various forms of potassium may be effective in lowering blood pressure, and that increasing intake of potassium-rich foods may be a useful alternative to taking potassium chloride. Most fruits, especially bananas, are high in potassium, as are vegetables and legumes.
Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She is a co-founder and practicing physician at South County Naturopaths, Inc., in Wakefield, RI. Dr. Beauchamp teaches holistic medicine classes and provides consultations focusing on detoxification and whole-foods nutrition.
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