Q. I was diagnosed recently with borderline hypertension. My internist has prescribed the diuretics HCTZ and spironolactone. My reactions to those have been headache, nausea and intestinal upset.

We have also tried Coreg, Norvasc, Accupril and lisinopril. My reaction to those medications has been severe migraine-like headaches. Are there any alternative therapies for treating hypertension?

A. There are many ways to treat high blood pressure, but you will need to work with your doctor to make sure the tactics you adopt work for you. As one reader of this column has noted, “losing a little weight (even just 10 pounds) could bring blood pressure down to normal with no drugs, no expense and no side effects.”

Another reader had success with alternative approaches: “I am a 65-year-old female, and my blood pressure was going up. I started drinking beet juice (I make it myself) and I do breathing exercises for 15 minutes every morning. I breathe slow and deep (less than 10 breaths a minute) for 15 minutes. It took me two months, but my pressure is normal.”

We are sending you our Guide to Blood Pressure Treatment, with a discussion of the pros and cons of drugs and a range of alternative therapies.

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  1. B.A.

    I take 5 different blood pressure medications and I wanted to know if it was safe to drink beet juice while taking these meds. Lisinopril, carvedilol, amlopine, clonidine and hydralazine. Thanks!
    People’s Pharmacy response: You might experiment cautiously (small amount of juice to start with) and also let your doctor know what you are doing.

  2. BobK

    This is a well known technique and there are many articles on this subject on the Internet. Basically you inhale through your nose slowly to a count of five or six seconds. Then slowly exhale through your mouth for another five or six seconds. Do this for several minutes per session and do it many times during the day as the goal is to eliminate shallow breathing that a lot of people do without realizing it. Results were quick (days) for me however everyone will respond differently. Also keep in mind that there are many reasons for high blood pressure so this procedure isn’t a cure all for those conditions. I still have to take BP meds but have reduced the amount required to maintain normal BP levels.

  3. Dean

    Hi BobK,
    Could you tell me the detail of the the breathing exercise?
    Eg, the duration of the exercise.
    How many times a day?
    And how many weeks/months did it take you to get good result?
    Best regards,

  4. EB

    I also drink beet juice, 2 cups a day, and it lowered my blood pressure 10 + points. Tastes great. Biotta natural at the health food store and on line.

  5. Cindy

    Valerie, Could you please tell me what brand of freeze dried beet juice powder you are using??

  6. Kansas City KC

    Belly breathing is a very good thing to master. Most people with stress issues breathe incorrectly (from their upper torso and chest), when correct breathing should come from the abdomen. Beet juice is also a great tool to lower BP and can be blended in a juicer with celery (another BP lowering agent) and an apple for taste. Good luck and be sure and exercise!

  7. Brandon H.

    Can I drink beet juice while taking a beta blocker and a calcium blocker?

  8. K H

    Can I use cooked beets in place of beet juice? What would be the daily dose?

  9. C B

    I, too, would like to know the brand of Beet Juice Powder for my high BP.
    I went online and saw many different Powders and I am hesitant to get one that may not be effective. Please contact me ASAP. Thanks, Carole

  10. AR

    What is the brand name of the beet juice powder?

  11. JC

    How much beet juice does one drink and how frequently?

  12. dp

    I have blood pressure that doesn’t think twice about jumping over 200 especially when I’m lax and don’t take it for awhile. Bought the Resparator to teach me to breath slowly, and be able to do it when I’m not doing a breathing session with the machine. It really works! along with walking over a mile at least 4 times a week, loosing weight, NO salt and especially not getting worked up over anything, good or bad.
    I was on every single med type. beta blockers, calcium channel blockers,etc. The only thing that had even a small effect was HCTZ and that put me in the hospital twice with severe chest pain and abnormal EKG from low potassium. I don’t take anything but beet juice, celery, eat garlic every day, turmeric, anti-inflammatory diet, fish oil, olive oil for cooking and eating, organic meat, beef no oftener than a small portion once a week.
    My pressure will run in the 140’s if I do the above and I live with that. Yoga once a week and practice at home helps also. The meds didn’t help and made me feel terrible, terrible. Also, NO caffeine! How I miss it.

  13. RMD

    Unless High Blood Pressure is hereditary, most people with High Blood Pressure show a definite pattern. The pattern is overeating, stress, lack of exercise and the resulting weight increase. I worked on Wall Street with a long stressful commute and over the years I gained weight and developed High Blood Pressure. It was the usual story, no exercise, late night heavy meals, stress at work, bad sleep habits etc etc etc. The All American story.
    Then one day being fed up with feeling lousy all the time I started exercising, eating less and healthier and I lost 20 lbs. In addition I meditated for 10 minutes each day using a method called the Relaxation Response. After 2 months I cut my blood pressure medication in half and was rapidly on my way to stopping my blood pressure medication completely.
    I felt better than I had in a very long time and even my doctor was surprised at the results. I continued this for almost a year and by that time I had lost a total of 40 pounds and my Blood Pressure without drugs was normal. Then I had a rough patch in my life and I “fell off the exercise wagon” and went back to my old ways.
    I gained the weight back over 3 years and my blood pressure went back to being high. The moral of this sad tale is that Blood Pressure can be controlled with little or no drugs, but it takes a lot of will power and a definite change in your lifestyle. And most importantly you have to make a LIFETIME COMMITMENT to a new healthier, lighter, fitter lifestyle that must be HABITUAL, that is it has to be your lifestyle for the rest of your life. This is easier said than done or more people would be successful at being fit, but it can be done. It means sticking to a life long moderate exercise program, eating less junk food, and reducing the stress level in your life by meditating or whatever helps and most importantly realizing that there will be ups and downs in your life, but you can’t let it affect your lifestyle.
    The analogy here is that being fit is like being successful in your own business, most people fail, but a lot of people also become successful. You have to decide, which one you want to be. I am going back to exercising and changing my life style and with the knowledge that I already did it once, I know if I make the commitment I can do it again.

  14. BobK

    My blood pressure was rising every year since I was 40 year old. Fitness wise I’ve always been in excellent shape but exercise didn’t help the blood pressure problem. Finally when the BP was 160/95 I went on Cozaar which helped bring it down to about 125/80. Then I started doing the breathing exercises (about 6 breaths a minute) and this really worked wonders. Last week my doctor measured the BP which was 110/60. I’m going to try to slowly reduce or eliminate the medication altogether if possible. Breathing exercises really works for me. I haven’t tried beet juice yet.

  15. valerie

    Re: Beet juice for hypertension.
    I have had incredible results with freeze dried beet juice from the health store. I have reduced the need of lisinopril 50%. My only caution…this is potent stuff. I spent a time titrating my dose with multi daily blood pressure checks. For me, just one eighth teaspoon in a small amount of water, works within 2 hours.
    Too much, and your blood pressure will go too low.

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