In this article, you will learn about the differences between blood pressure medications and blood pressure supplements. It is important to know when you should take medications and when you should not or do not need to. There are also suggestions on how to lower your blood pressure through healthy living.

Natural Ways to Lower Blood Pressure

Blood pressure medications and supplements can be very helpful, but they should not substitute healthy living. And even when supplements or medications are used, they work best when they are accompanying a healthy lifestyle.This type of lifestyle includes:

  • A healthy diet. This includes:
      • Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables
      • Including foods that are naturally red, blue, or purple in color (like berries, eggplants, and beets)
      • Getting plenty of potassium
      • Reducing sodium intake
      • Eliminating trans fat in diet
      • Reducing caffeine intake
  • Daily physical activity
  • Breaking unhealthy habits such as smoking and excessive drinking

Read this article to learn more about naturally reducing blood pressure and keeping your heart healthy.

Blood Pressure Supplements

Vitamin D

Garlic oil capsules, vitamins d pills

Low levels of vitamin D are often linked with hypertension. [1] Taking Vitamin D can reduce blood pressure in people with high blood pressure. It is probably able to do this by suppressing a blood pressure hormone called rennin (similar to an ACE inhibitor, see below for details). And making sure you have the needed amount of vitamin D can help with more than just blood pressure. It also helps with bone health, the immune system, mood, and cancer prevention. [2] [3]

Garlic

Garlic can improve circulation and is a natural diuretic. We have known this since ancient Greek times. It has been recorded to significantly lower blood pressure. Besides being eaten as a seasoning, it can also be taken as a supplement. [4]

Folic Acid

Taking high doses of folic acid may help to reduce the blood pressure in people with hypertension. Some studies suggest it is also helpful in reducing the risk of hypertension during pregnancy. It is in most prenatal vitamins and can also be taken as its own supplement in capsule form. [5] [6]

Nitric Oxide

Nitric Oxide to Open the Blood VesselsNitric Oxide naturally relaxes and widens the blood vessels, creating better circulation and lowering blood pressure. Heartbeet Complete is a great natural source of nitric oxide.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3s lower triglyceride levels (these are fatty acids in your blood) and reduce blood pressure. They do this by blocking the angiotensin system and causing the arteries to relax. They have anti-inflammatory properties and help prevent the arteries from constricting. [8]

Magnesium

Magnesium deficiency contributes to higher blood pressure. Studies have shown that increasing magnesium intake lowers blood pressure. People with heart disease may see even greater effects. [9] [10]

Potassium.

Foods That Are High in Potassium

Healthy Foods That Are High in Potassium

Potassium helps decrease pressure on your artery walls and counteracts the effects of sodium on blood pressure. Include plenty of potassium in your diet or take it as a supplement. [11]

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)

CoQ10 is an antioxidant. It helps your cells produce energy, but it can also lower your blood pressure. It is also well-tolerated and can be bought as a supplement.  [12]

Dietary Fiber

Increasing fiber intake has been found to reduce blood pressure by a small amount. [13] Most people do not get enough in their diet, so either doing more to incorporate it into what you eat or taking it as a supplement could be helpful in lowering your blood pressure.

Acetyl-L-carnitine

This is produced in your body to give you energy, and it is important in controlling blood pressure. It can also be taken as a supplement, is affordable, and has minimal side effects. [14]

Antheocyanins

These are a class of flavonoids. Flavonoids are what give fruits and vegetables like eggplants, blueberries, and grapes their red, purple, and blue colors.  But they are more than a pigment – flavonoids are also natural inhibitors of angiotensin-converting enzymes that increase blood pressure. They also produce nitric oxide, which opens up the blood vessels. They are rich in fruits like elderberries, chokeberries, and bilberries but can also be taken as a supplement. [15] [16] [17]

French Maritime Bark Extract

This bark extract contains flavonoids (see above). They also have pycnogenol, which may improve circulation and help lower blood pressure. [18] [19] [20]

Melatonin

This hormone is naturally produced by your body and helps you sleep. People often take it as a supplement. But interestingly, people with hypertension sometimes don’t produce enough melatonin. Take low doses (2 mg) at night to avoid drowsiness. [21] [22]

When Should I Take Blood Pressure Medications?

Sometimes natural and supplemental ways are not enough to lower high blood pressure. Most people will eventually experience high blood pressure, so taking a needed blood pressure medication is not admitting defeat. Though you should do all you can to naturally lower your blood pressure through healthy lifestyle choices, there may be a time when medications will be the right choice. Here is what you need to consider before taking a high blood pressure medication:

What do the numbers say?

Doctor checking blood pressure of a patient

First, remember that high blood pressure does not have many outward symptoms. That is why it is essential that you get your blood pressure checked regularly. You can even learn to do this at home with the proper equipment. Blood pressure is shown as systolic blood pressure (when your heart beats) over diastolic (when your heart rests). For example, 130 / 90. Normal blood pressure is less than 120 / 80.

If your blood pressure is 120 – 129 / less than 80 (elevated blood pressure) you probably don’t need medication.

With blood pressure that is 130/80 to 139/89 (stage 1 hypertension), you might need medication. Your doctor will probably suggest lifestyle changes before drugs unless you have other health concerns.

If blood pressure is 140/90 or higher (stage 2 hypertension), you will likely need medication. This does not mean lifestyle changes are not needed (they are) but your doctor probably will prescribe a medication at this point.

Blood pressure over 180/120 requires immediate medical attention. [23]

Important Guidelines

  • Take blood pressure regularly to make sure your blood pressure is high enough to need medication and keep a detailed record.
  • Try lifestyle changes first.
  • Consider other factors that might increase your risk of high blood pressure, such as
      • Health conditions like high cholesterol, diabetes, or heart disease
      • Age (the elderly are more likely to have high blood pressure)
      • Gender (men are more likely to have high blood pressure)
      • Race (people of African descent are more at risk for high blood pressure)
      • Family history (a family history of hypertension will increase your risk)
  • Don’t forget your desires and opinions matter. Think about what you want. Some prefer not to take medications because of side effects and risk factors.
  • Talk with your doctor about your blood pressure and options that are best for you.

You should NOT take blood pressure medications when:

You are pregnant or think you may become pregnant. Many of the following medications have been known to cause harm to both mother and baby during pregnancy. Always talk with your doctor about any health condition you have before starting a new medication.

Talk with your doctor about other health conditions or current medications or supplements to make sure there are no negative interactions or risky side effects.

Blood Pressure Medications

lot of colorful medication and pills

There are many different types of blood pressure medications, and they address different needs. These are the most common types you will likely hear about from your doctor:

Diuretics

What they do: Diuretics reduce sodium and fluid by increasing urination. This lowers blood volume, which can lower blood pressure. These are usually used to treat mild hypertension. It is often used in combination with other medications.

Common generic and brand names (brand names in parentheses):

  • Amiloride hydrochloride (Midamar)
  • Bumetanide (Bumex)
  • Chlorthalidone (Hygroton)
  • Chlorothiazide (Diuril)
  • Furosemeide (Lasix)
  • Hydrochlorothiazide (Esidrix, Hydrodiuril, Microzide)
  • Indapamide (Lozol)
  • Methylclothiazide (Enduron)
  • Metolazone (Mykroz, Zaroxolyn)
  • Spironolactone (Adlactone)
  • Torsemide (Demadex)
  • Triamteren (Dyrenium)

Side effects:

  • Diuretics decrease potassium levels. Some diuretics are developed to avoid this problem, like amiloride (midamor), spironolactone (Aldactone), and triamterene (Dyrenium).

Beta-Blockers

What they do: Beta Blockers get to the heart. They reduce the heart rate and force of pumping. Through this and reducing blood volume, they lower blood pressure.

Common generic and brand names (brand names in parentheses):

  • Acebutolol (Sectral)
  • Atenolol (Tenormin)
  • Betexolol (Kerlone)
  • Bisoprolol fumarate (Zebeta)
  • Carvedilol (Coreg) — Combined alpha/beta blocker
  • Esmilol (Brevibloc)
  • Labetalol (Trandate, Normodyne) — Combined alpha/beta blocker
  • Metoprolol tartrate (Lopressor) and metoprolol succinate (Toprol-XL)
  • Nadolol (Corgard)
  • Nebivolol (Bystolic)
  • Penbutolol sulfate (Levatol)
  • Propranolol (Inderal)
  • Sotalol (Betapace)
  • HCTZ and bisoprolol (Ziac) is a beta blocker plus diuretic

Side effects:

  • Dizziness, weakness, fatigue, or even fainting
  • shortness of breath, asthma symptoms, and chest pain
  • Insomnia
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Depression

Do not suddenly stop taking Beta-blockers. This can cause heart attack or sudden death. If you are experiencing unwelcome side effects, talk with your doctor about slowly reducing your intake.

Vasodilators (blood vessel dilators)

Healthy CirculationWhat they do: These cause the artery walls to relax and dilate, which naturally lower blood pressure.

Common generic and brand names (brand names in parentheses):

  • Hydralazine (Apresoline)
  • Minoxidil (Loniten)

Side effects:

  • Minoxidl can result in excessive body hair growth, weight gain, and dizziness
  • Hydralazine might cause headaches, heart palpitations (irregular or fluttering heartbeats), swelling around the eyes, and joint pain.

ACE Inhibitors

What they do: ACE stands for Angiotensin-converting enzyme. Angiotensin causes the arteries to narrow throughout the body and especially in the kidneys. ACE inhibitors limit the production of Angiotensin. The blood vessels open up, which lowers blood pressure.

Common generic and brand names (brand names in parentheses):

  • Benazepril hydrochloride (Lotensin)
  • Captopril (Capoten)
  • Enalapril maleate (Vasotec)
  • Fosinopril sodium (Monopril)
  • Lisinopril (Prinivel, Zestril)
  • Moexipril (Univasc)
  • Preindopril (Aceon)
  • Quinapril hydrochloride (Accupril)
  • Ramipril (Altace)
  • Trandolapril (Mavik)

Side effects:

  • Dry cough (usually it goes away, but that can take weeks)
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Reduced kidney function
  • Skin rash

Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers

What they do:  ACE Inhibitors might reduce the amount of angiotensin in your body. But Angiotensin II receptor blockers prevent angiotensin from binding to the receptors on the blood vessels.

Common generic and brand names (brand names in parentheses):

  • Azilsartan (Edarbi)
  • Candesartan (Atacand)
  • Eprosartan mesylate (Teveten)
  • Irbesarten (Avapro)
  • Losartin Potassium (Cozaar)
  • Olmesartan (Benicar)
  • Telmisartan (Micardis)
  • Valsartan (Diovan)

Side effects:

  • Increased potassium level (hyperkalemia)
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Upper respiratory tract infections
  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea

Peripheral Adrenergic Inhibitors

What they do: These work in the brain to block signals that tell blood vessels to constrict. They are usually only used when other high blood pressure medications do not work.

Common generic and brand names (brand names in parentheses):

  • Guanadrel (Hylorel)
  • Guanethidine monosulfate (Ismelin)
  • Reserpine (Serpasil)

Side effects:

  • Reserpine can cause
      • mild congestion
      • diarrhea
      • heartburn
      • Other effects include insomnia, nightmares, and depression. Talk to your doctor immediately if you experience these symptoms.
  • Guanadrel (Hylorel) and guanethidine (Ismelin) can cause
      • Diarrhea
      • Dizziness, weakness, or lightheadedness (especially when you stand)
      • Male patients may experience impotence

Calcium Channel Blockers

What they do: Calcium channel blockers block calcium from entering heart and artery cells. This prevents these cells from becoming harder. Blood vessels are able to relax and open, reducing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure.

Common generic and brand names (brand names in parentheses):

  • Amlodipine besylate (Norvasc, Lotrel)
  • Bepridil (Vasocor)
  • Diltiazem hydrochloride (Cardizem CD, Cardizem SR, DIlacor XR, Tiazac)
  • Felodipine (Plendil)
  • Isradipine (DynaCirc, DynaCirc CR)
  • Nicardipine (Cardene SR)
  • Nifedipine (Adalat CC, Procardia XL)
  • Nisoldipine (Sular)
  • Verapamil hydrochloride (Calan SR, Covera HS, Isoptin SR, Verelan)

Side effects:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Swollen ankles
  • Constipation
  • Headache
  • Dizziness

Alpha Blockers

What they do: These relax muscle walls of the arteries by reducing the arteries’ resistance and cause the blood vessels to dilate. This lowers the blood pressure.

Common generic and brand names (brand names in parentheses):

  • Doxazosin mesylate (Cardura)
  • Prazosin hydrochloride (Minipress)
  • Terazosin hydrochloride (Hytrin)

Side effects:

  • Dizziness
  • Faster heart rate
  • Low blood pressure when you stand up

Alpha-2 Receptor Agonist

What they do: This medication causes the involuntary nervous system to produce less adrenaline. That is how it lowers blood pressure.

Methyldopa usually does not have negative effects for pregnant women or a developing fetus.

Common generic and brand names (brand names in parentheses):

  • Methyldopa

Side effects:

  • May cause drowsiness or dizziness

Central Agonists

What they do:  Central antagonists also make it difficult for the blood vessels to contract. They basically do the same thing as alpha and beta-blockers, but also reduce pressure.

Common generic and brand names (brand names in parentheses):

  • Alpha methyldopa (Aldomet)
  • Clonidine hydrochloride (Catapres)
  • guanabenz acetate (Wytensin)
  • Guanfacine hydrochloride (Tenex)

Side effects:

  • Alpha methyldopa (Aldomet) side effects include:
      • Feeling weak, faint, drowsy, or sluggish
      • Dry mouth
      • Fever
      • Anemia
      • Male patients can experience impotence
  • Cloidine (Catapres), guanabenz (Wytensin) or guanfacine (Tenex)
      • Dry mouth
      • Constipation
      • Drowsiness

Do not stop suddenly taking this medication. This may cause blood pressure to rise to dangerously high levels.

[23] [24]

The Bottom Line

It is important to maintain a normal level of blood pressure, especially as we age. That is why checking blood pressure regularly is so crucial. Lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise, and good habits should be our first line of defense. Supplements can add to that defense. There are many natural ways to lower blood pressure. But sometimes we need help beyond supplements. Here is where medications can help, and there are many different types of blood pressure medications. Always talk with your doctor about what is best for you.

Resources

  1. Forman, John P., Curham, Gary C., et. Al. Plasma 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Levels and Risk of Incident Hypertension among Young Women. Hypertension. 2008; 52(5); 1633-37. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2747298/
  2. Pfeifer M, Begerow B, Minne HW, et al. Effects of a short-term vitamin D3 and calcium supplementation on blood pressure and parathyroid hormone levels in elderly women. J Clin Endcrinol Metab. 2001;86:1633–37. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11297596
  3. Witham MD, Nadir MA, Struthers AD. Effect of vitamin D on blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Hypertens. 2009 Oct; 27(10):1948-54. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19587609
  4. Xiong, Wang, et al. Garlic for hypertension: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Phytomedicine. 2015; 22(3): 352-61. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25837272
  5. McRae, Marc P. High-dose folic acid supplementation effects on endothelial function and blood pressure in hypertensive patients: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials. J. Chiropr Med. 2009; 8(1): 15-24. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2697578/
  6. De Ocampto, Maria P.G, Araneta, Maria Rosario G., et al. Folic acid supplement use and the risk of gestational hypertension and preeclampsia. Women and Birth. 2018; 31(2): 77-83. https://www.womenandbirth.org/article/S1871-5192(17)30161-0/fulltext
  7. Van de Wall, Gavin. 5 ways nitric oxide supplements boost your health and performance. Healthline. 2018. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/nitric-oxide-supplements
  8. Cicero AF, Ertek S, Borghi C. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids: their potential role in blood pressure prevention and management. Curr Vasc Pharmacol. 2009 Jul;7(3):330-7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19601857
  9. Kawano Y, Matsuoka H, Takishita S, Omae T. Effects of magnesium supplementation in hypertensive patients: assessment by office, home, and ambulatory blood pressures. Hypertension. 1998 Aug;32(2):260-5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9719052
  10. Baker WL, Kluger J, White CM, et al. Effect of magnesium L-lactate on blood pressure in patients with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator. Ann Pharmacother. 2009 Apr;43(4):569-76. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19336644
  11. American Heart Association. 2016. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/changes-you-can-make-to-manage-high-blood-pressure/how-potassium-can-help-control-high-blood-pressure#.W0-1A9hKi9a
  12. Rosenfeldt, F.L.; Hass S.J.; et al. Coenzyme Q10 in the treatment of hypertension: a meta-analysis of the clinical trials. Journal of Human Hypertension. 2007; 21: 297-306. https://www.nature.com/articles/1002138
  13. Streppel, Marinette T.; Arends, Lidia R; et al. Dietary Fiber and Blood Pressure: A Meta-analysis of Randomized Placebo-controlled Trials. Arch Intern Med.2005; 65(2): 50-156. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/486375
  14. Ruggenenti, Piero; Cattaneo, Dario; et al. Ameliorating hypertension and insulin resistance in subjects at increased cardiovascular risk: Effects of Acetyl-L-Carnitine Therapy. Hypertension. 2009;54:567-574. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.109.132522
  15. Aviram M, Rosenblat M, Gaitini D, et al. Pomegranate juice consumption for 3 years by patients with carotid artery stenosis reduces common carotid intima-media thickness, blood pressure and LDL oxidation. Clin Nutr. 2004 Jun;23(3):423-33. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15158307
  16. Ojeda D, Jiménez-Ferrer E, Zamilpa A, et al. Inhibition of angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) activity by the anthocyanins delphinidin- and cyanidin-3-O-sambubiosides from Hibiscus sabdariffa. J Ethnopharmacol. 2009 Oct 4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19808084
  17. Xu JW, Ikeda K, Yamori Y. Upregulation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase by cyanidin-3-glucoside, a typical anthocyanin pigment. Hypertension. 2004 Aug;44(2):217-22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15226277
  18. Zibadi, Sherma; Rohdewald, Peter J.; et al. Reduction of cardiovascular risk factors in subjects with type 2 diabetes by Pycnogenol supplementation. ELSEVIER. 2008; 26(50:315-320. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nutres.2008.03.003
  19. Liu X, Wei J, Tan F, Zhou S, Würthwein G, Rohdewald P. Pycnogenol, French maritime pine bark extract, improves endothelial function of hypertensive patients. Life Sci. 2004 Jan 2;74(7):855-62. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14659974
  20. Rohdewald P. A review of the French maritime pine bark extract (pycnogenol), a herbal medication with a diverse clinical pharmacology. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2002 Apr;40(4):158-68. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11996210
  21. Scheer FA, Van Montfrans GA, van Someren EJ, et al. Daily nighttime melatonin reduces blood pressure in male patients with essential hypertension. Hypertension. 2004 Feb;43(2):192-7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14732734
  22. Grossman E, Laudon M, Yalcin R, et al. Melatonin reduces night blood pressure in patients with nocturnal hypertension. Am J Med. 2006 Oct;119(10):898-902. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17000226
  23. Beckerman, James (reviewer). How do I know if I need high blood pressure drugs? WebMD Medical Reference. 2019. https://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/how-know-need-high-blood-pressure-drugs#1
  24. Morelli, Jim. Ogbru, Omudhome (editor). RxList. 2017. https://www.rxlist.com/high_blood_pressure_hypertension_medications/drugs-condition.htm