National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)

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Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

Hypertension, also called high blood pressure, affects about a third of all U.S. adults. Over time, it can damage the heart, blood vessels, kidneys, and other parts of the body. It can cause coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, and kidney failure. It is managed with lifestyle changes including eating a healthful diet, being more physically active, maintaining a desirable body weight, not smoking, and learning how to manage stress, and when necessary, medication.

Bottom Line:

Some complementary health approaches are showing promise as elements of a program of lifestyle change that can help lower blood pressure.

  • Research results show that some mind and body practices, such as meditation and yoga, may help reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension. A 2008 meta-analysis also found evidence that qi gong can be a useful addition in controlling high blood pressure.
  • In 2013, the American Heart Association suggested that biofeedback and Transcendental Meditation, in addition to conventional medication, can help people lower their blood pressure.
  • Several studies suggest that certain dietary supplements including cocoa/dark chocolate, coenzyme Q10, garlic, and fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids) may help reduce blood pressure in people being treated for hypertension. However, the evidence is very limited and sometimes conflicting.

Safety:

  • Lifestyle changes and, if necessary, conventional medicines can safely help most people control their blood pressure. If you’re considering a complementary approach, you should discuss the decision with your health care provider. Do not replace your conventional treatment with an unproven product or practice.
  • If you’re considering a dietary supplement, remember that “natural” does not necessarily mean “safe.” Some dietary supplements may have side effects including raising blood pressure, and some may interact with medications or other dietary supplements. Some vitamins and minerals are toxic at high doses.
  • Relaxation techniques are generally considered safe for healthy people. There have been rare reports that certain relaxation techniques might cause or worsen symptoms in people with epilepsy or certain psychiatric conditions, or with a history of abuse or trauma. If you have heart disease, you should talk to your health care provider before doing progressive muscle relaxation.

For more information on hypertension, visit the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Web site.

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