HeartBeatingThe American Heart Association has summarized the blood pressure-lowering effects of several alternative approaches and provided recommendations for their use.

Here’s what we know in people with blood pressure (BP) levels higher than 120/80 mmHg.

First, the details.

  • 1,000 studies published between 2006 and 2011 were reviewed.

And, the results.

  • Transcendental meditation (TM)
    • Evidence supports TM to lower BP modestly.
    • Not certain whether it’s superior to other meditation techniques due to few head-to-head studies
    • TM (or meditation techniques in general) doesn’t appear to pose significant health risks.
  • Biofeedback
    • Mixed results, but recent studies show that certain biofeedback techniques can reduce BP.
    • It’s plausible that some techniques may be more effective than others; however, a paucity of data precludes making specific recommendations.
    • No significant health risks reported.
  • Yoga
    • Limited data mean a specific technique cannot be recommended.
    • Few cardiovascular health risks posed by yoga practice
    • No adverse events reported in the few completed studies
  • Other relaxation techniques
    • Poor quality and lack of uniformity of most studies make it difficult to conclude which specific techniques or relaxation therapies are best to lower BP.
  • Acupuncture
    • Not recommended to reduce BP due to mixed study results plus negative findings from a recent large study.
  • Device-guided slow breathing
    • Evidence suggests that it can significantly lower BP.
    • No known contraindications to using the device.
    • No adverse effects reported.
  • Exercise
    • Dynamic aerobic (endurance)
      • Overall evidence support moderate-intensity dynamic aerobic regimens to lower BP in most people in a few months.
    • Dynamic resistance (weight lifting and circuit training)
      • Lack of studies in people with hypertension
      • Available evidence suggests it can lower arterial BP modestly.
      • No evidence of harm from short-term studies.
    • Isometric resistance
      • Limited evidence suggests that isometric, particularly hand grip, exercises produce significant reductions in BP.
      • No adverse events reported, but there are few relatively small studies published.
    • The article provides greater detail on the use of exercise in people with high blood pressure.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “Most alternative approaches reduce systolic blood pressure by only 2 to 10 mmHg; whereas standard doses of a blood pressure-lowering drug reduce systolic blood pressure by about 10 to 15 mmHg,”

For most people with high blood pressure, there may be benefit from CAM to augment the response to allopathic treatments.

Talk to your doctor.

4/25/13 9:05 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.