High blood pressure is very common and treated with lifestyle modifications and medication. Additionally, people may take supplements to lower blood pressure. Here are some that you shouldn’t take as they can increase blood pressure or interfere with blood pressure medication.
Reviewed by Dietitian Jessica Ball, M.S., RD
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a very common condition that can increase a person’s risk of developing diseases that impact the heart, eyes, kidneys and brain. Often referred to as the silent killer, high blood pressure, especially in the beginning stages, does not typically present with any symptoms. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), many people may not know they have it until they have had it for a while.
Controlling blood pressure includes making lifestyle changes, such as eating a nutritious diet, regular exercise and smoking cessation. Some people need to take medication to help keep their blood pressure in a healthy range as well. Even still, those who struggle may consider turning to nutritional supplements for additional support. With so many supplements on the market, this can be a tricky task. Supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA); therefore, knowing how to choose the best product for you is important. If you purchase supplements that are not high quality or third party tested, you could be taking supplements that contain other ingredients that may not be safe for you or simply wasting money on things that aren’t effective.
4 Supplements You Shouldn’t Be Taking if You Have High Blood Pressure, According to a Dietitian
Certain supplements can interfere with medications taken to lower blood pressure, while other supplements have actually been shown to increase blood pressure. Before purchasing supplements, it’s always important to become informed by researching and discussing options with your medical provider.
While there are many supplements that—when taken in conjunction with a healthy diet and lifestyle—may have the potential to help lower blood pressure, this article will focus on which supplements you should avoid if you have high blood pressure. You’ll also learn how you can improve your blood pressure naturally through different dietary strategies as well.
1. Licorice Root and Licorice Candy
Licorice has long been used as a herbal remedy for gastrointestinal symptoms and is being investigated for its potential role in treating other diseases. However, The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health states that long term ingestion of licorice root or high intakes of licorice candy has been associated with increased blood pressure and decreased potassium levels. A condition known as hypokalemia may occur when potassium levels are too low. Hypokalemia is an electrolyte imbalance that can cause muscle weakness, gastrointestinal symptoms and, in serious cases, cardiac arrhythmias and respiratory failure.
Licorice intake may also interact with certain types of blood pressure lowering medications, reducing their effectiveness.
Additionally, if you are taking Lanoxin for congestive heart failure or abnormal rhythms, licorice could increase your risk of Lanoxin toxicity, says the American Heart Association.
Diets rich in potassium have been known to help reduce blood pressure. Potassium is a mineral and electrolyte that helps maintain fluid balance by excreting excess sodium which lowers blood pressure. It also relaxes your blood vessel walls. Although dietary intake of potassium is helpful in reducing blood pressure, people with high blood pressure who take medication should be cautious when supplementing with potassium. In fact, the American Heart Association, discourages the use potassium supplements in people with high blood pressure who take angiotensin-coverting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors because it can interfere with how the medication works, resulting in high levels of potassium in the blood.
Without medical supervision, it’s best to avoid ginseng due to its varying effects on blood pressure. At low doses, panax ginseng has been found to increase blood pressure (in those with low blood pressure), while high doses can lower blood pressure in healthy subjects. On the other hand, other studies have found it to have a neutral effect on blood pressure. The results are highly mixed. Researchers highlight the need for more high-quality, randomized, clinical-controlled trials that assess blood pressure and use standardized types of ginseng root or extracts to determine ginseng’s role in cardiovascular health. Lastly, if you are taking blood thinners, ginseng can interfere with their effects.
4. Guarana and Other Supplements That Contain Caffeine
Made from the seeds of the guarana plant, guarana can be formulated into powders, liquid tinctures, capsules and is commonly used in energy drinks that contain caffeine. The seeds are a potent form of caffeine and once they are processed, the byproducts can contain even higher levels of caffeine.
Compared to a coffee bean, a guarana bean is thought to have 4 times the amount of caffeine. It’s important to know how much caffeine is in your supplement. A systematic review and meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that high intakes of caffeine may increase blood pressure for few hours after consumption, especially in people who are not accustomed to consuming caffeine and who already have high blood pressure. Stimulants like caffeine can also increase your heart rate. Though individual reactions to caffeine are different, it’s probably best to avoid these types of supplements.
Keep in mind that this list may not be extensive. There is always a potential for other supplements and vitamins to impact your blood pressure. If you notice that since beginning a new vitamin, herb or mineral that your blood pressure has increased, stop taking it and reach out to your health care provider for guidance.
Tips for Health Eating if You Have High Blood Pressure
What you eat can have an impact on your blood pressure. Diets that are rich in sodium and low in potassium can increase the risk of developing high blood pressure. Research has shown that diets rich in fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, unsalted nuts, seeds, healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil, and less processed meat can be beneficial for blood pressure. In fact the DASH diet, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension was created in the 1990s to help reduce and treat high blood pressure. Time and time again this type of eating pattern has been proven to be effective in lowering blood pressure.
According to the National Heart and Lung Institute, the DASH eating is a balanced and flexible eating style that helps to promote heart health. It consists of eating mostly whole foods which keeps sodium intake low. The goal is to keep sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams per day; however, lowering it to 1,500 milligrams per day may help reduce blood pressure even more. A sample day on a healthy eating pattern for high blood pressure may include:
Vegetables: 4 to 5 servings per day (choose from a variety of colors)
Fruits: about 4 to 5 servings per day
Whole Grains: 6 to 8 servings per day (quinoa, brown rice, farro, whole grain bread)
Low-fat dairy products: 2 to 3 servings per day (low-fat or non-fat yogurt, milk)
Lean meat, poultry and fish: 6 or fewer servings per day (chicken, fish, turkey)
Nuts, seeds, dried beans and peas: 4 to 5 weekly servings
Fats and oils: 2 to 3 servings per day (avocado, olive oil)
Sweets: less than 5 servings per week
Don’t be discouraged if the way you eat looks very different from this. Making small changes slowly can yield positive results and assist you in easing into this new way of eating while also making it feel sustainable for the long term.
Focus on adding potassium rich foods into your eating plan (rather than potassium supplements). Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, including potassium-rich foods like squash, potatoes, oranges, beans, chicken, apricots, prunes, chicken, salmon and low-fat yogurt can help you meet your needs.
Lastly, reducing intake of high-sodium foods, such as snack foods, frozen meals like pizzas, French fries and highly-processed meats, like cured meat and cold cuts, is also important in promoting healthy blood pressure. When reading a food label, you can examine the sodium content by looking at the daily value of sodium. Any food that contains 20% or more the daily value for sodium, it is considered a high-sodium food.
Rather than focusing on one meal, it’s useful to think about your sodium intake throughout the day. For example, if you ate lunch out on-the-go, try to eat dinner at home. This can help you to manage your sodium intake in a way that works for your lifestyle. When cooking, replace some salt in seasoning with fresh and dried herbs, such as garlic, basil, oregano, cumin, parsley, paprika, to name a few.
The Bottom Line
Having high blood pressure can increase your risk of other diseases. Oftentimes, the only way to know your blood pressure is elevated is to have it checked. If you have high blood pressure, your healthcare provider will recommend lifestyle changes, such as reducing sodium intake, increasing intake of whole foods that are rich in potassium, regular exercise and smoking cessation. In certain instances, blood pressure medication may be recommended.
You might be wondering if certain supplements can help. While there are some supplements or foods that can provide blood pressure benefits, there are others that should be avoided, either because they have variable effects on blood pressure or they can interfere with your medication. Always discuss your supplements and medications with your health care provider for your safety and well-being.