Blood Pressure: Tips for February and Beyond

Understanding blood pressure

The two numbers in a blood pressure (BP) test measure the pressure against artery walls first when the heart contracts to pump blood (systolic), then when the heart relaxes between contractions (diastolic). Normal BP is less than 120/80 mmHg, and high BP, or hypertension, begins at 130/80. 

Phytosterols help control BP

Phytosterols are plant-based antioxidants that previous studies revealed had circulatory benefits. In this review of 19 placebo-controlled clinical trials, doctors saw significant improvements in systolic BP as the doses of phytosterols increased.

Overall, for all studies, those taking phytosterols saw average decreases in systolic BP of 1.55 mmHg, and decreases of 0.84 mmHg in diastolic BP. The systolic and diastolic benefits began to appear in studies lasting less than 12 weeks. Doctors also found the most significant effects for systolic BP when phytosterol doses reached at least 2,000 mg per day, while the most significant effects for diastolic BP came at doses below 2,000 mg of phytosterols per day.

Reference: Clinical Nutrition Journal; 2019, S0261-5614, Published Online

Pycnogenol reduced BP

Pycnogenol® is an antioxidant compound found in French maritime pine bark. In this review of 12 placebo-controlled clinical trials covering 922 participants with or without high BP, overall, Pycnogenol reduced systolic BP by an average of 3.22 mmHg, and reduced diastolic BP by an average of 1.91 mmHg.

The benefits were magnified in studies that gave participants Pycnogenol along with standard medical treatments for hypertension. And, Pycnogenol had a greater effect on reducing diastolic BP in studies lasting more than 12 weeks.

Reference: Phytotherapy Research; October, 2019, Volume 34, No. 1, ptr.6515

Grape Seed Extract Polyphenols may help lower perceived stress levels

This study followed 80 healthy men and women, aged 40 to 70, with mildly elevated systolic blood pressure between 125 and 140 mmHg. Body mass index scores ranged from 19 to 32, and all the women were postmenopausal. Participants measured blood pressure for seven days before taking a placebo or 300 mg of grape seed extract per day.

Until the fourth week, women in the placebo group saw a greater reduction in systolic blood pressure than men in the placebo group. After 16 weeks, systolic and diastolic blood pressure had declined in both groups, but declined more for those taking grape seed extract. Men saw the most significant benefit, with systolic blood pressure declining 4.6 mmHg, and diastolic pressure declining 3.2 mmHg by the end of the study.

Those taking grape seed extract perceived less worry, tension, and demands and reported greater joy compared to placebo, with women experiencing greater benefits than men.

Reference: Nutrients; 2021, Vol. 13, No. 2, 654

Polyphenols and mood in hypertension

Evidence is increasing that a diet rich in polyphenols can have anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects. In this study, 99 people, aged 40 to 65, with mild high blood pressure, or hypertension, consumed a high- or low-polyphenol diet.

After four weeks, while those on the low-polyphenol diet had not changed, those on the high-polyphenol diet saw a 67 percent decrease in depressive symptom scores on a standard depression index.

Discussing the results, doctors said, “The study findings suggest a polyphenol-rich diet could potentially lead to beneficial effects on certain outcomes including depressed mood and physical and mental health in hypertensive participants.” Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, coffee, tea and wine, dark chocolate, virgin olive oil, and spices including anise, celery seed, oregano, and spearmint, among others, are rich in polyphenols.

Reference: Nutrients; August, 2020, Vol. 12, No. 8, 2445

BetsyHealth Note: This article is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease. Consult your healthcare provider before trying a supplement, especially if you have a medical condition, including being pregnant or nursing, take prescription or over-the-counter medications, or are planning on having surgery. For example, most of the nutrients discussed in this article also thin blood and may be contraindicated with blood pressure medications as well as blood-thinning medications.

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