Alternative Therapies Gain Ground in the Fight Against High Blood Pressure

The American Heart Association (AHA) has acknowledged that alternative therapies can be effective in lowering blood pressure. In a scientific statement published in its journal Hypertension, a panel assembled by the AHA concluded that alternative approaches can be beneficial for people with blood pressure levels higher than 120/80 mm Hg and those who don’t respond well to or can’t tolerate standard medications. However, they did not review dietary and herbal treatments.

Lack of Studies

While there haven’t been many extensive studies on alternative therapies, people still have many questions about their value, according to Robert D. Brook, M.D., chair of the AHA panel and an associate professor of medicine at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. A frequent request from patients is for alternative methods to lower blood pressure without the need for medication. The panel’s intention was to provide some guidance in this area.

The Panel’s Findings

The panel report found the following outcomes:

  1. Exercise: Three types of exercise, aerobic, weight lifting and isometrics, can reduce blood pressure. Walking programs offer modest benefits. Researchers found that four weeks of isometric hand grip exercises led to some of the most significant improvements, with a 10 percent drop in systolic and diastolic blood pressure. However, isometric exercise should be avoided in people with severely uncontrolled high blood pressure (180/110 mm Hg or higher).

  2. Behavioral therapies: Biofeedback and transcendental meditation may help lower blood pressure by a small amount. However, insufficient data supports using other types of meditation for this purpose.

  3. Yoga and relaxation techniques: There is a lack of strong clinical evidence to recommend yoga and other relaxation techniques for reducing blood pressure.

  4. Acupuncture: There isn’t enough evidence to recommend acupuncture for lowering blood pressure, particularly given the complexities involved in administering this treatment. However, device-guided slow breathing did prove effective in lowering blood pressure when performed for 15-minute sessions three to four times a week.

Brook notes that “most alternative approaches reduce systolic blood pressure by only 2-10 mm Hg; whereas standard doses of a blood pressure-lowering drug reduce systolic blood pressure by about 10-15 mm Hg.” It’s essential for patients to discuss their goals with their doctors to determine if alternative approaches can be added to the treatment regimen.

In Conclusion

While the AHA panel’s findings show that alternative therapies can have a positive effect on blood pressure, more research is needed to fully understand their potential benefits. Before making significant changes to your blood pressure management plan, it’s crucial to consult with your doctor to determine which alternative therapies, if any, could be right for you.

The need for further long-term studies on alternative therapies is evident, and as more people continue to explore natural remedies and treatments for various health conditions, having concrete answers and guidelines will be increasingly valuable.

Achieving and maintaining a healthy blood pressure level is essential for overall wellness. By understanding the different available treatment options and working closely with your healthcare provider, you can develop an effective plan for managing your blood pressure and reducing your risk of dangerous complications.