Supplements – A warning for those with hypertension

Nowadays, talk about the effectiveness of herbal supplements is widespread, and one could easily believe that there is a herbal remedy for every condition. Unfortunately, the hype about some herbal supplements outweighs the scientific proof so far. A pair of cardiologists recently set out to examine the effectiveness of the complementary supplements most commonly recommended for hypertension. They reached some troubling conclusions regarding the usefulness of these supplements, of which some might even have an adverse effect on wellbeing.

The research took place at the University of Rochester’s Medical Centre and results were published in the Journal of Clinical Hypertension. Nine dietary supplements commonly recommended for reducing hypertension were examined. The most encouraging results were found in relation to potassium and coenzyme Q10 supplements, both found to be effective in reducing blood pressure. Other dietary supplements were found to have little effect, but were not thought to be harmful. Examples from this category include garlic, calcium and soy protein. However, there were worrying outcomes in relation to the use of herbal supplements for treating hypertension.Hawthorne, Mistletoe and Forskolin were all examined for their effects on blood pressure and none were found to be effective. Mistletoe is especially to be avoided because it becomes toxic at high concentrations. The strongest warning was in relation to St. John’s Wort, Ephedra and Liquorice. All are readily available over the counter, yet have actually been shown to increase blood pressure. It is clear that further research is required into such supplements, and at the very least a list of contra-indications should accompany each product.

The conclusion of the research contained very simple advice. The doctors vouched for the value of blood pressure medication as a necessary first measure. Meanwhile, they recommended that one should take a holistic approach to one’s lifestyle and create a suitable diet and exercise programme. The most effective programme in treating hypertension was said to be the low-sodium DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. The Dash diet includes whole grains, fruits and vegetables and, of course, lowers sodium intake. Changes to diet were actually thought to be the most valuable support to pharmaceutical medicine in the treatment of hypertension.

It is understandable that people want to avoid pharmaceutical drugs in managing hypertension. However, this approach will only succeed if a full lifestyle transformation is achieved. In severe cases, the use of pharmaceutical drugs should not be avoided, as the results of this could be far worse than the slight toxicity of the drug, or the presence of side-effects. With an issue this serious, every decision should be made under the guidance of a qualified professional, and any risks regarding untested herbal medicine avoided.

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