There have been many debates about the value of supplements to lowering blood pressure and health in general.  We thought this would be a good time to put the facts on the table, so you can make the best choices for yourself on how best to lower your blood pressure.

Myth: You can receive all the nutrients you need from supplements.

Fact: Supplements alone do not provide all the nutrients that foods can provide.  However, supplements can be a good alternative for people who have a hard time eating all the necessary foods to meet the required nutrition guidelines.

Myth: Supplements were designed to be food substitutes

Fact: Supplements were designed to provide people with the extra nutrients they need and that they are not getting from whole foods.   The drawback of supplements is that they deliver the prescribed vitamin(s) and nothing more.  Meaning, the vitamins found in fruit, vegetables and other foods come with thousands of other phytochemicals, or plant nutrients that are not essential for life, but may protect against cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other chronic ailments.  Studies have shown that the combination of all these nutrients, as found in foods, are more effective than taking one supplement or nutrient in a pill form.

Myth: Supplements are for everyone

Fact: If you are healthy and eat a well balanced diet, you generally do not need supplements.  Supplements are recommended for certain health problems that can not be addressed just through healthy eating.  Supplements should be prescribed by a health care provider to assure that you are taking the right vitamins, doses and avoid the risk of interactions with other medications or health conditions.

Myth: One can lose weight, reduce stress, and increase energy by taking supplements.

Fact: Supplements are designed to fill in nutrition gaps and add to your diet.  They are not to be used as a replacement for a healthy diet or lifestyle.  No matter how many supplements you take, you still need to eat and live healthy to see improvements where necessary.  So do not expect, as many health professionals will also advise, that supplements will do more than what they were designed for.

Myth: Supplements prevent chronic disease.

Fact: Studies on the effect of supplements on preventing chronic disease have demonstrated an ability to possibly lower the risk of chronic disease.  However, supplements are used to help reduce the symptoms of chronic diseases, especially cancer, and have proven beneficial in numerous cases.  Note that there are studies indicating taking to many supplements can lead to an increase in health risks in the future.

Myth: Supplements are risk free and FDA Approved in the United States

Fact: Unlike drugs, which must be approved by the FDA before they can be marketed, supplements do not require premarket review or approval by the FDA.  However, the FDA does require that supplement manufacturers have evidence that their products are safe and their labels truthful and not misleading, but they are not required to provide the FDA with such evidence before entering the market.  According to the national Institute of Health, the FDA does periodically inspect facilities that manufacture dietary supplements.  There have been various studies demonstrating that certain supplements can be harmful and they should therefore; be taken with caution and under the supervision of a health care provider. Furthermore, when taking supplements it is important to take the recommended dose otherwise you run a risk of health complications.

Myth: Potassium supplements will help lower blood pressure.

Fact: Many Potassium supplements include chloride to make the pill taste better and studies done on potassium chloride to determine its effect on blood pressure are inconsistent.  Natural potassium promotes a more effective exchange of sodium ions than does potassium chloride supplements.

Myth: Magnesium supplements will influence your blood pressure.

Fact: According to the New England Journal of Medicine, studies on the effect of magnesium supplements on lowering blood pressure demonstrated ineffective, while eating foods rich in magnesium proved beneficial.

Myth: Calcium supplements are dangerous.

Fact: Calcium is necessary for your health and studies have shown that eating low-fat or non-fat dairy products is more effective than supplements, when it comes to lowering blood pressure.  In 2010 a controversial study was published that demonstrated that the women involved, who took calcium supplements, had a 27% increase risk of having a heart attack compared to those who did not take supplements.  Following much criticism, the study was reanalyzed and the researchers found that the increase occurred in women who never before took calcium supplements and immediately jumped into a regimen of high-dose calcium supplements.  The researches then concluded that, the sudden increase of blood calcium levels contributed to the increase risk of heart attack.  They then recommended obtaining calcium from food sources, from which the mineral is absorbed more slowly.

Myth: Vitamin D does not lower high blood pressure.

Fact: Recent studies have shown a direct relationship between vitamin D and reduced blood pressure readings when former studies showed otherwise.  That said, vitamin D is not a cure for high blood pressure, but it can help people who are deficient to reduce their blood pressure.  The most effective means of increasing vitamin D is exposure to the sun, but for people who live in regions with minimal sunshine, vitamin D supplements are recommended.

Myth: Supplements are safe to take with any medication

Fact: Many supplements have proven problematic with certain medications and it is important to read labels before mixing them.  Discuss an effective supplement regimen with your doctor and be sure to inform him of all medications you are taking and health conditions you have.  For example, large doses of calcium supplements can interfere with some high blood pressure medications such as, Thiazide diuretics and Calcium channel blockers.

Sources:

WebMD

Mayo Clinic

Wall Street Journal

Science Daily

Scientific American

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