Non-Pharmacological Treatments for Hypertension

Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has taught high school and college biology and has a master's degree in cancer biology.

We know there are an abundance of medications available to treat hypertension, but what if you don't want to take medicine? This lesson will discuss the non-pharmacological treatment options for hypertension.

Hypertension

Your mom is diagnosed with hypertension, a condition of having high blood pressure. She doesn't like taking prescription drugs and refuses to do so at this point. You know that she needs to do some things to get her blood pressure within the normal range, so you decide to research some non-pharmacological treatments for hypertension.

During your search, you found several methods that can help your mom lower her blood pressure. Some involve making simple lifestyle changes, and the other treatments involve practices that are more common in Eastern culture but are gaining popularity in Western culture.

Lifestyle Changes

Mom is going to have to make some lifestyle changes. You have always found it interesting that she won't take medicine but smokes cigarettes. During your research, you found out that smoking raises blood pressure, so quitting is a great step that your mom can take to lower her blood pressure. It may not be the easiest thing for her to do, so she may need a step-down program or join a support group to help her quit. If she were open to taking something to help quit smoking, then she could use nicotine patches or gum.

She also has to work on her not-so-healthy diet. Mom has a diet full of red meat, fried foods and sodium. You are going to introduce her to the DASH diet, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This diet focuses on eating more vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, fish and poultry. Your mom will get to eat some red meat, but it will be on occasion and in small amounts. As part of this diet, she will also consume more water and reduce her salt intake. After only two weeks, the DASH diet can lower blood pressure and increase energy levels.

A proper diet is needed to lower blood pressure
Diagram showing a healthy food pyramid

Besides diet, exercise is also important when fighting high blood pressure. Mom's blood pressure isn't completely out of control, and her heart is otherwise healthy, so she can manage to do at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise each day. This can be anything from walking, running on a treadmill, swimming or riding a bike. Regular exercise will also help your mom maintain a healthy weight, an essential component in maintaining normal blood pressure.

Mom is concerned because you are suggesting she make many changes in her life, and she wants to know if she can keep drinking alcohol. Your research didn't say that she needs to stop, but it does say that she needs to drink within moderation. You suggest she limits her alcohol consumption to no more than one drink a day and preferably just drink red wine. This reminds you of having a similar conversation with your husband when he had to cut back to two drinks a day, which is the recommendation for men.

The last thing that you need mom to do is relax a little more. She has been very stressed over recent years after losing her husband and learning to live alone. One thing she can do is see a grief counselor or emotional therapist. Some of her emotional stress may be relieved by simply speaking to someone about how she feels without them judging her in any way. She could also pick up a hobby, do yoga, read books, get together with friends or try relaxation breathing exercises.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine

In addition to the lifestyle changes your mom needs to make, there are some complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) approaches that can help her reduce her blood pressure. These include supplements and a few non-medical treatments.

While the DASH diet will help your mom maintain most of her nutrient needs, there are specific nutrients you need to make sure she gets enough of whether it comes in her diet or in supplements. One of these is omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential oils found primarily in fish, seeds, leafy vegetables and nuts.

Omega-3 fatty acid supplements
Picture of omega-3 fatty acid pills

While reading about these fats, you found out that they help relax the walls of the arteries, decrease inflammation and manage blood clotting. Each of these are important aspects of keeping mom's blood pressure within the normal range.

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