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Answers from Dr. Hart

QUESTION:

My doctor told me that my blood pressure is "pre-hypertension" and that I may need to take medication in the future. I would really like to avoid drugs. Are there any herbs or other measures I can take to lower my blood pressure?

Carol S.

DR. JACQUELINE HART:

In terms of herbs, there is not convincing scientific evidence that any herbs help lower blood pressure. The two that show the most promise include garlic (Allium sativum) and hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), both commonly used by herbal specialists for heart health in general. However, the research for each of these remedies for blood pressure is limited and, again, not compelling.

The information that is much more persuasive is the need to make lifestyle changes in order to lower your blood pressure. So, exercise regularly, lose weight if necessary, lower your salt intake, limit the amount of alcohol you drink, and eat a diet rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, and other important nutrients. Such a diet includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, fish several times per week (although not tuna or others high in mercury which can raise blood pressure), and non-fat or low-fat dairy products. Also, see your doctor regularly and discuss any changes in lifestyle and side effects from medications.

Dr. Hart is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and teaches lifestyle modification programs for people with heart disease. She is currently affiliated with the Department of Internal Medicine, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Harvard University. She holds an MD from the George Washington School of Medicine and an AB in psychology from Harvard-Radcliffe University. Dr. Hart completed her residency at Brown University in Primary Care Internal Medicine.

 

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Review Date: 6/8/2011
Reviewed By: Steven Kang, MD, Division of Cardiac Pacing and Electrophysiology, East Bay Arrhythmia, Cardiovascular Consultants Medical Group, Oakland, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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