Support Heart Health with These Natural Options

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Scott: Can we go into high blood pressure a little bit more?  Are there some other things?  You mentioned hibiscus can help with that.  Are there any other products that we can find that might be helpful?

Mark Blumenthal: In the range of high blood pressure, there's a definite caution that's probably fairly obvious, that people who have high blood pressure, if it's seriously elevated, need to have professional help.  High blood pressure is not a trivial condition.  It can be a serious disease.  It can be a life-threatening disease.  So people who have more than moderately elevated blood pressure should get professional council and professional treatment.  This includes the uses of, the proper use of diuretics, and that should be monitored by a physician.  

At the same time however, many integrated physicians know that to increase, or to modify one's lifestyle can actually have beneficial effects on high blood pressure.  Moderate exercise can have a blood pressure lowering effect.  Reduction of sodium and salt and sodium containing foods can reduce high blood pressure tendencies.  Adding garlic to one's diet or drinking hibiscus tea can be helpful.  Some people recommend using hawthorn.  Now hawthorn is either the berry or the leaf and flower of a particular type of hawthorn plant usually grown in Europe.  Hawthorn berry is a very traditional European jam or jelly or conserve, so it's a food item.  But the proanthocyanidins found in hawthorn berry, and also to some extent, to larger extent, in the leaf and flower made into pharmaceutically prepared extracts to make a phytomedicine.  Hawthorn can have not only a beneficial effect on the activity of the heart muscle, but also has a vasodilating effect and therefore lowers blood pressure.  So the good thing about hawthorn is that people who have first or second stage of congestive heart failure can use hawthorn to increase contractility of heart muscle at the same time have a mild reduction in blood pressure.  So that's a good combination.  Now at the same time, a caveat.  Anybody with heart disease should not be self-medicating.  This is not trivial, obviously.  I don't need to say that.  We don't recommend that people self medicate for heart conditions.  Even if it's considered first stage, second stage, according to the four stages of the New York Heart Association for determining the functional stages for heart disease, or congestive heart failure.  

However, at the same time, there's a growing body of very strong clinical evidence of using hawthorn berry extracts, or even better, hawthorn leaf with flower extracts during stage one or stage two either primary therapies or at the very least, adjunct therapies.  And there's been a number of systematic reviews in the clinical literature where they take all the research on hawthorn, look at all the data, pool the data together and show a positive, beneficial trend in the contractility, the working of the heart muscle.  This is something that every cardiologist should be required to know.  Because in some cases, using hawthorn either as a primary, or at the very least, an adjunct therapy, along with conventional pharmaceutical medications should at least be considered.  Especially when you consider the fact that hawthorn has a very high safety profile.  There are very little adverse effects with hawthorn, virtually none.  There's no herb-drug interactions known with hawthorn.  So it has a very high safety profile.  Again, one of the reasons is, because the hawthorn berry is a fruit.  It's not a common food, but it's a fruit that's used as a food so you have a presumption of safety when you've got documentation of an herb when it has a history of food use. 



Mark Blumenthal, founder of the American Botanical Council, discusses some natural support options for things like high blood pressure and other cardiovascular issues. Blumenthal stresses the seriousness of these health issues, but also offers some options outside of prescription medications.

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