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Can Heart Disease Be Prevented and Reversed?

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Can Natural Remedies Manage Hypertension?

Statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO) indicate that hypertension (high blood pressure) is estimated to cause 7.5 million deaths, about 12.8 percent of the total of all deaths. Hypertension is a chronic medical condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is elevated. It is dangerous because it makes the heart work too hard and contributes to atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries). Persistent hypertension is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease and stroke. Other complications of hypertension include heart failure, peripheral vascular disease, renal impairment, retinal hemorrhage and visual impairment.

When one has been diagnosed with hypertension, he or she should talk to the doctor about the best treatment options. Medication therapy may first be sought, though antihypertensive drugs can be harsh and are associated with many side effects. Perhaps, patients may first try lifestyle changes and some alternative treatments for hypertension if their doctors agree so.

According to a paper published in 2011 Jan-Jun Issue by ‘Pharmacognosy Reviews’, about 75 to 80 percent of the world population use herbal (alternative) medicines, mainly in developing countries, for primary health care because of their better acceptability with human body and lesser side effects. Despite that there is limited research on the use of natural remedies for hypertension, there is still some evidence that it may be of some benefit.

The researchers reviewed numerous naturally occurring medicinal plants that have so far been scientifically studied and reported to have hypotensive or antihypertensive effects. Garlic, cat's claw herb, celery and flaxseed are some of plants included in the review.

Garlic has been reported by human studies of its ability to lower blood pressure, particularly systolic blood pressure. The reduction is, however, small, at less than 10 percent. Allicin, the active constituents in garlic, is thought to lower blood pressure by relaxing blood vessels, reducing damage and pressure. Allicin also interferes with smoothly contracting muscles and enzyme effects that increase blood pressure, and it is responsible for the potent antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-blood coagulation, lipid-lowering, and anti-cancer activity in garlic. But garlic is not safe for use with many common medications and conditions. So, talking to doctor before using it is important.

Being used in traditional Chinese practice to treat hypertension and neurological health problems, cat’s claw cleanses the blood, improves circulation, and is effective in fighting inflammation in the body. It lowers blood pressure by acting on calcium channels in the cells. It is possibly safe for most people when taken by mouth over a short period of time, though it may cause headache, dizziness, and vomiting in some people. Nevertheless, it may not be safe for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding. As it might make blood pressure control difficult during surgery, people should stop taking cat’s claw at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Flaxseed is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been found to lower blood pressure significantly. It may protect against atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease by reducing serum cholesterol, improving glucose tolerance and acting as an antioxidant. Daily consumption of 15 to 50 grams per day of ground flaxseed may modestly reduce total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein concentrations without altering triglycerides or high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. But the exact mechanism is unclear.

Celery has been long used to treat one type of hypertension associated with liver in China. Patients are asked to orally take about 8 ounces of celery juice mixed with equal amount of honey, 3 times a day, for up to a week. Reports indicated that this was useful in lowering hypertension in 14 out of 16 patients. Studies also show that it may be effective in reducing systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

During the last 2 decades, there has been renewed interest in the search of new drugs from natural plant sources because they may have fewer side effects and better bioavailability for treatment of hypertension in future. Until scientists can verify the effectiveness and make clear the safety profile of herbal remedies, alternative medicines should not substitute the standard care in treating hypertension.




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