National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)
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Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

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A close up of a stethoscope taking a pulse on an arm in a pressure cuff

© TongRo Images/Thinkstock

Hypertension, also called high blood pressure, affects about one in three U.S. adults. Over time, it can damage the heart, blood vessels, kidneys, and other parts of the body. Complications can include heart attacks, heart failure, stroke, and chronic kidney disease. High blood pressure is managed with lifestyle changes including healthy eating, being physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol intake, and managing and coping with stress. If lifestyle changes alone don’t lower blood pressure enough, medicines may be used to treat the disease. 

Bottom Line

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

  • Research results suggest that some mind and body practices, such as meditation, tai chi, qi gong, and yoga, may have small beneficial effects on blood pressure in people with hypertension. It’s uncertain whether relaxation techniques are helpful. 
  • In 2013, the American Heart Association suggested that biofeedback and Transcendental Meditation, used in addition to conventional medication, can help people lower their blood pressure.
  • Research results suggest that certain foods and dietary supplements, including cocoa, garlic, fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids), flaxseed, green or black tea, probiotics, and the herb roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa), may help reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension. However, the evidence that these products can lower blood pressure is limited, and the effects of the products on blood pressure are small. No dietary supplement has been shown to have effects comparable to those of drugs used to treat hypertension. 

Safety

  • If you have high blood pressure, it’s important to follow the treatment plan prescribed by your health care provider. Following your treatment plan is important because it can prevent or delay serious complications of high blood pressure. Don’t replace your prescribed treatment with an unproven product or practice. If you’re considering a complementary or integrative approach for your high blood pressure, discuss it with your health care provider. 
  • Tell your health care provider about all dietary supplements that you’re taking or considering. Some dietary supplements, such as the herbs bitter orange, ephedra, ginseng, and licorice root, may raise blood pressure, and some supplements may interact in harmful ways with medicines, including medicines used to treat high blood pressure. 
  • Mind and body practices are generally safe for healthy people if properly performed by a qualified practitioner or taught by a well-trained instructor. However, some practices may not be appropriate for people with health conditions. For example, people with high blood pressure may need to modify or avoid some yoga poses. If you have high blood pressure, talk with your health care provider and your complementary health practitioner or instructor if you’re considering a mind and body practice.

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

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This page last modified July 26, 2018