Question: My doctor wants to put me on a prescription for my blood pressure. I have never been on any prescription drugs in my life and I don’t want to start now. Diet and exercise can help, I know, but what else can I do?
Dr. Wright: Biofeedback is another valuable and frequently effective “non-drug” tool for lowering blood pressure. It is not so much a “treatment” as it is a training program. Using external instruments, a reading is obtained of your body’s reactions to stress. Through practice, you learn to recognize the physiological responses you have that might be causing unhealthy reactions and teach yourself how to control those responses. Biofeedback centers are found in all major and most midsize cities. Check your local Yellow Pages for listings.
You may also want to consider taking potassium if you’re not already. Sometimes it reduces blood pressure, sometimes it doesn’t. But since higher potassium levels do reduce stroke risk, it’s always a good idea to take extra potassium (300 to 500 milligrams per day) if you have hypertension, even if it doesn’t lower your actual blood-pressure numbers.
Calcium and magnesium are also worth trying. For some individuals, about 1 gram (1,000 milligrams) of calcium daily can reduce blood pressure by five to 10 points. For others, calcium makes very little difference. (It appears to work more often for those with insulin resistance/hyperinsulinemia.)
If you do supplement with calcium, it’s important to balance it with magnesium, which can also help lower your blood pressure, since it helps relax blood vessels and improve blood flow through them. Supplementing with 300-400 milligrams of each nutrient daily is usually sufficient.
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