The American Heart Association (AHA), in a “scientific statement,” has finally admitted that alternative therapies can help lower your blood pressure. Although, they are still cautious about discussing therapeutic measures that haven’t been the subject of large studies.
In its journal Hypertension, a panel put together by the association says alternative approaches can help people with blood pressure levels higher than 120/80 mm Hg and those who can’t tolerate or don’t respond well to standard medications. But the panel did not review dietary and herbal treatments.
“There aren’t many large well-designed studies lasting longer than a few weeks looking at alternative therapies, yet patients have a lot of questions about their value,” says 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 common request from patients is, ‘I don’t like to take medications, what can I do to lower my blood pressure?’ We wanted to provide some direction.”
The panel report claims:
- Three types of exercise (aerobic exercise, weight lifting and isometrics) can reduce blood pressure. Walking programs provide modest benefit. Research shows that four weeks of isometric hand grip exercises result in some of the most impressive improvements: A 10 percent drop in systolic and diastolic blood pressure. However, isometric exercise should be avoided among people with severely uncontrolled high blood pressure (180/110 mm Hg or higher).
- Behavioral therapies like biofeedback and transcendental meditation may help lower blood pressure by a small amount. However, there’s not sufficient data to support using other types of meditation.
- Strong clinical evidence is also lacking to recommend yoga and other relaxation techniques for reducing blood pressure.
- There isn’t enough evidence to recommend acupuncture for lowering blood pressure, particularly given the complexities involved in employing 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.
“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,” Brook says. “So, alternative approaches can be added to a treatment regimen after patients discuss their goals with their doctors.”