Aptly nicknamed the “silent killer,” high blood pressure (HBP), or hypertension, often has no obvious symptoms. It tends to develop slowly over time, and many people with hypertension aren’t even aware their blood pressure is elevated. When blood pressure — the force of the blood pushing against artery walls — is too high for too long, it increases the workload of the heart and can cause complications, including damage to cells in the arteries’ inner lining. Left unchecked, high blood pressure can lead to health problems, including heart disease, heart attack, stroke and kidney damage. The good news: hypertension can often be effectively managed with diet and lifestyle changes as well as natural, science-backed supplements.
Here, we cover five that can help. Note that some can interact with medications, including high blood pressure drugs, so always check with your health-care provider.
L-arginine, an amino acid the body produces that’s also found in red meat, legumes, soy, fish and dairy products, may lower blood pressure when taken as a supplement. Arginine plays a key role in vascular health; it’s an important precursor of nitric oxide (NO), a compound produced by the body that acts as a vasodilator, relaxing the smooth muscle in blood vessels, allowing them to widen and thereby helping to improve blood flow. A number of studies suggest L-arginine supplements may significantly lower blood pressure. One meta-analysis of 11 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials found L-arginine reduced both systolic (the top number, which indicates the maximum pressure your heart exerts while beating) and diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number, which represents the amount of pressure in your arteries between beats), compared with a placebo.
TRY: NOW Foods L-Arginine Capsules, $12 for 100 (500 mg)
Beetroot is high in naturally occurring nitrates, some of which the body can reduce to nitrites and then convert to nitric oxide. Some research shows that supplementing with beetroot juice significantly increases nitrite concentrations in the blood, which then converts to nitric oxide and promotes vasodilation, reducing blood pressure. One review found that in 11 trials, beetroot juice could lower blood pressure levels in people with and without high blood pressure; in one study, beetroot juice reduced systolic blood pressure in just 24 hours. And beetroot juice appears to have activities beyond its effects on nitric oxide; it’s rich in polyphenol antioxidants and other compounds that may help lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation and improve blood vessel health and function.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), also called ubiquinone, is a vitamin-like compound that acts as an antioxidant; it’s naturally produced by the body and found in small amounts in certain foods. Taken as a supplement, CoQ10 may help reduce systolic blood pressure by preserving nitric oxide, which enhances vasodilation. In one review of 17 randomized controlled trials, CoQ10 significantly decreased systolic blood pressure; other studies found CoQ10 reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure measurements in their subjects with hypertension. Because statins — cholesterol-lowering drugs — have been found to reduce the amount of naturally occurring CoQ10 in the body, research is ongoing to determine if supplements might lessen the muscle weakness and pain associated with taking these drugs. Look for a high-absorption form with black pepper extract to enhance bioavailability.
TRY: Doctor’s Best High Absorption CoQ10 with BioPerine, $17 for 120 softgels (100 mg)
Garlic has long been known as a remedy in traditional medicine. Modern research has found some evidence for its ability to lower inflammation and protect against blood clots, and it may also help reduce high blood pressure. One way it’s thought to work is by aiding in the process that increases nitric oxide, a compound that relaxes the smooth muscle in blood vessels and enhances vasodilation. And some research suggests the organosulfur compounds in garlic may help correct sulfur deficiencies, thought to play a role in the development of hypertension. In one meta-analysis of 20 trials, garlic supplements reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, compared with a placebo. Another meta-analysis of 12 trials showed garlic supplements lowered blood pressure as well as anti-hypertensive medications, a decrease researchers linked with a 16 to 40% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular events. The most consistent benefits have been shown in studies that used aged garlic extract (AGE); the aging process converts unstable organosulfur compounds into more bioavailable compounds higher in antioxidants.
TRY: Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract Formula 100, $26 for 300 capsules (300 mg)
Fish oil has omega-3 fatty acids, long recognized for their impact on heart health, and studies have linked a higher consumption of fish with an overall reduction in heart disease mortality. Supplementing with fish oil omega-3s may benefit hypertension, and one review found EPA and DHA significantly reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Some researchers have proposed that three to four grams per day of omega-3s maybe be required to achieve blood pressure reduction, but supplements may be effective even in smaller doses. In one trial, where the subjects’ systolic blood pressure was elevated while their diastolic pressure was normal, EPA and DHA in doses as low as 0.7 grams a day led to a clinically meaningful reduction in blood pressure, which may be linked with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
TRY: Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega 2X, $50 for 60 softgels
In addition to these hypertension-fighting supplements and medications, you can also learn How to Eat Well for High Blood Pressure and incorporate good-for-your-heart foods into your diet with One Day of Eating for High Blood Pressure. There are plenty of foods that can better your overall heart health, and some may even offer a small bit of protection too.