Alternative Routes to Lower Blood Pressure

Hypertension may be lowered through alternative therapies

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Meditation may never replace medication when it comes to effectively treating high blood pressure, but alternative treatments can support proven hypertension therapies.

High blood pressure can lead to heart attack and stroke, and it affects more than a quarter of the population worldwide.

Physical activity, managing weight, not smoking or drinking excess alcohol, eating a low sodium, balanced diet and taking medications when prescribed are all proven approaches for reducing pressure.

A new study finds that alternative methods, such as transcendental meditation, biofeedback and resistance training, can support established techniques.

"Reduce high blood pressure with exercise."

Robert D. Brook, MD, associate professor of medicine at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, served as Chair for an American Heart Association (AHA) panel of experts who assessed three alternative remedy categories.

They reviewed data published from 2006 to 2011, including 1,000 studies on behavioral therapies; non-invasive procedures and devices (including acupuncture and device-guided slow breathing); and exercise (aerobic, resistance and weight training and isometric exercises, most commonly handgrip devices).

The panel did not review dietary and herbal treatments.

The panel wrote that alternative approaches could help people who can’t tolerate or don’t respond well to standard medications and those with blood pressure levels higher than 120/80 mm Hg. (The AHA says that normal blood pressure is less than 120/80.)

These experts, however, recommended that alternative therapies shouldn’t replace proven methods to lower blood pressure.

Dr. Brook told dailyRx News, “We have provided a summary supporting a wide array of alternative treatments for blood pressure-lowering. We have also provided guidance on when and how to potentially use these methods to help lower blood pressure.”

The panel found that four weeks of isometric hand-grip exercises resulted 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).

Weight lifting, biofeedback and transcendental meditation may also help lower blood pressure by a small amount, according to the research.

Biofeedback is a method of learning to control one's bodily functions by monitoring one's own brain waves, blood pressure, and degree of muscle tension. Transcendental meditation is a form of meditation in which a mantra is repeated silently.

Device-guided slow breathing proved effective in lowering blood pressure when performed for 15-minute sessions three to four times a week.

There was not strong enough evidence to recommend acupuncture or yoga for lowering blood pressure.

“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 said.

“So, alternative approaches can be can be added to a treatment regimen after patients discuss their goals with their doctors.”

This study was published in the April issue of the American Heart Association journal Hypertension.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 22, 2013
Last Updated:
November 14, 2013