Clonidine is a medication that’s used to treat hypertension. It acts on alpha-adrenoreceptors in the brain stem to reduce blood pressure and heart rate; it does this by relaxing the arteries so that blood can flow more easily through the body.
Like all medications, however, there’s a potential for side effects. For example, it can cause dry mouth, headache, tiredness, nervousness, nausea, vomiting, and constipation. Rarely, it can also cause depression, fainting, hepatitis, and heart failure. Angioedema is another possibility. A type of allergic reaction, it can cause swelling, especially around the lips, cheeks, or eyes. Contact your doctor right away if you experience any of these symptoms.
Are there any natural alternatives to Clonidine? The answer is yes. As a matter of fact, there are a number of things that you can do to lower your blood pressure naturally. In fact, that’s what we’ll be going over in this post. Keep reading to find out what they are!
Note: These natural alternatives are not meant to replace prescription medications. If anything, they’re meant to be used in conjunction with conventional therapy (assuming that you’re on medications). Always consult with your doctor first before trying any supplements.
1. Reduce Your Sodium Intake
Eating too much salt will cause your body to hold onto water. More specifically, it’ll pull water into your blood vessels; this will increase the total amount of blood inside. In other words, you’ll have more blood flowing through your vessels, and over time, this can damage the blood vessel walls. For one thing, it can speed up the buildup of plaque. Not only that, but the added pressure will also put stress on the heart (it’ll have to work harder to pump blood throughout the body).
Note: Some people are more salt-sensitive than others. According to studies, approximately half of those with high blood pressure have a sensitivity to salt.
Given that, it’s best to reduce your salt intake. According to the American Heart Association, you want to limit yourself to a maximum of 2,300mg of sodium a day (less than 1,500mg is ideal).
This means swapping processed foods (e.g. pizza, free fries) with fresh ones. Also, make a habit of checking the labels when you’re at the grocery store. Try to look for products that are low-sodium or have no salt added whenever possible. And if you’re cooking, try to season your food with herbs and spices instead of salt.
2. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Gaining just five pounds can cause your blood pressure to rise. For one thing, it’ll put extra strain on your heart; this will increase your risk of developing hypertension. Not only that, but the extra fat will also increase vascular resistance (the amount of force that you need to push blood through the body).
Ideally, your BMI should be between 18.5 and 24.5. Any higher and it’ll be within the overweight range (anything above 30.0 is considered obese).
What’s the best way to lose weight? By eating less and being more active (you’ll lose one pound a week if you cut back by 500 calories a day). The types of food that you eat are also important. Instead of processed foods, opt for things that are high in fiber (e.g. fruits and vegetables). Not only are they low in calories, but they’re also excellent sources of vitamins and minerals.
As far as exercise goes, you want to aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day (at least 200 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week is ideal). Couple that with a healthy diet and the effect will be even more significant.
3. Cut Back On Caffeine
The effect of caffeine on blood pressure is still debated. However, studies have shown that it can increase blood pressure by up to 10mm Hg, especially in those who don’t regularly consume coffee.
What’s interesting, though, is that it can also have a protective effect. That is, people who drink caffeinated beverages such as coffee and tea may actually have a lower risk of high blood pressure.
In other words, it may have a stronger effect on those who don’t consume caffeine regularly.
To see whether or not you’re sensitive to caffeine, check your blood pressure within 30 minutes of drinking coffee (or another caffeinated beverage). If your reading goes up by 5 to 10 mm Hg, you’re likely sensitive to its blood pressure-raising effects. Given that, you may want to reduce the amount that you drink on a regular basis.
4. Take Natural Supplements
Certain supplements may help lower blood pressure. Some examples include:
Fish Oil: Studies have shown that fish oil may benefit heart health. It contains omega-3 fatty acids that can help reduce cardiovascular disease. Not only will they slow the buildup of plaque, but they may also lower blood pressure slightly.
Aged Garlic Extract: Aged garlic extract contains a chemical called allicin, which is effective in reducing blood pressure. How does it work? By preventing the production of angiotensin II—the hormone responsible for increasing blood pressure in the body. That’s not all, its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties may also contribute to its effect.
Hibiscus: Hibiscus is rich in polyphenols and anthocyanins, both of which are good for the heart. In addition to lowering blood pressure, studies have also shown that it may help reduce LDL levels. And there are several ways that you can take it. For example, you can make a tea with the petals. For the best results, it’s recommended that you drink three cups a day.
Berberine: Berberine has been used medicinally for thousands of years. A type of alkaloid, it can help lower blood pressure by increasing nitric oxide production. Not only that, but it may also benefit those with diabetes (it helps regulate how the body uses sugar).
Potassium: Potassium plays a role in blood pressure regulation. More specifically, it can help reduce high blood pressure levels by promoting the excretion of sodium through the urine. Not just that, but it may also help the blood vessels relax. In one study, those who took potassium supplements experienced a modest but significant drop in blood pressure compared to the control group. The effects were particularly significant in those who consume high amounts of sodium.
Magnesium: Magnesium helps the blood vessels relax and this in return, will lower your blood pressure. While magnesium deficiency is fairly rare, many people don’t get enough of the mineral. For those who don’t want to take magnesium supplements, you can always get it from your diet instead. Some foods that are high in magnesium include chicken, legumes, whole grains, leafy vegetables (e.g. spinach, kale), and yogurt.
CoQ10: Coenzyme Q10, also known as CoQ10 or ubiquinone, is a nutrient that’s found naturally in the body. And when taken as a supplement, it can help lower blood pressure levels. More specifically, it can reduce systolic blood pressure (the top number on a reading).
5. Quit Smoking
Smoking is not just bad for the lungs, it’s bad for the heart as well. In fact, every puff of smoke you take can cause a temporary increase in blood pressure (the nicotine in cigarettes will cause your blood vessels to tighten and your heart to beat faster). Not to mention that the chemicals can also damage the blood vessels.
Given that, it’s best to quit smoking. In just one day, your blood pressure will begin to drop; this will lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. By the one-year mark, your risk of coronary heart disease will be cut in half—and this number will only continue to go down with time.
For those who need help quitting, there are medications that can help. For example, your doctor may recommend nicotine replacement therapy. These products will give you controlled doses of nicotine, which will help with your addiction. There are also prescription medications that’ll lower your desire to smoke.
Other things that you can do:
- Write down your smoking triggers and try to avoid them as possible
- Join a smoking cession support program
- Tell your friends and family about your plan and ask them for their support
Exercise! It’ll distract you from your cravings and reduce their intensity. Even a short walk or jog can help.
6. Eat Some Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate (the ones with at least 50% cocoa) can help lower blood pressure. This has to do with the fact that they contain flavonoids—ones that produce nitric oxide. Ultimately, it’s this nitric oxide that causes the blood vessels to relax.
Studies have also shown that dark chocolate can lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol levels. This makes it an excellent heart-healthy snack. In fact, studies have shown that eating dark chocolate two or more times a week can lower the risk of plaque buildup by over 30%.
As with all snacks, however, you don’t want to eat too much. For one thing, it’s high in calories. In other words, it can lead to weight gain and that can increase your risk of hypertension. Eating huge amounts of dark chocolate in a single sitting won’t increase its benefits either.
Try to eat small amounts on a daily basis instead (about 30 calories worth of chocolate or so). For those who are wondering, that’s roughly one piece of Hershey’s Kisses. And if you can, eat the ones that have a cocoa content of 70% or higher. Generally speaking, the higher the percentage, the more beneficial it will be.
7. Manage Stress
Chronic stress can lead to various health issues including high blood pressure. When you’re stressed, the body produces certain hormones, which causes your heart to beat faster. Not only that, but your blood vessels will narrow as well. All of this will cause your blood pressure to increase.
What’s more, is that you’re more likely to engage in other behaviors such as smoking or drinking alcohol when you’re stressed.
That’s why it’s so important to manage your stress. For example, you can listen to soothing music. Studies have shown that it can help relax your nervous system. Exercise is another great stress reliever; it’ll pump up your endorphins aka “feel-good hormones”, which will help improve your mood. For instance, you can go for a walk or a bike ride around the neighborhood. Yoga is great as well. If anything, it’s one of the best ways to manage stress and anxiety.
8. Incorporate Berries Into Your Diet
Berries are packed with polyphenols, natural compounds that have been shown to protect against coronary heart disease. Not only that, but they can also improve blood pressure, digestion, and brain health.
Which berry has the most polyphenols? The black chokeberry; it contains more than 1,700mg per 100g. Other berries that are high in this nutrient include high bush blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries.
For those who don’t like berries, you can get polyphenols from other fruits such as black currants, sweet cherries, apples, and plums. Some fruit juices also contain high amounts of the nutrient.