Working out, maintaining a healthy diet, limiting alcohol, and reducing your stress levels are all heart-healthy habits that will earn you kudos from cardiologists. And considering half of Americans have high BP—and that blood pressure levels shot up even further during the COVID-19 pandemic, a period of collective stress and gym closures—every little thing you can do for your heart health these days is helpful. (By the way, the American Heart Association considers normal blood pressure to be a systolic pressure that’s under 120 mmHg and a diastolic pressure that’s under 80 mmHg—so a healthy reading might look something like 110/70).
Though your doc checks your BP at your annual physical, most people don’t experience signs or symptoms when their blood pressure is elevated—and the long-term force of blood against artery walls can eventually lead to heart disease. Left unchecked, that means high blood pressure (clinically called “hypertension”) can cause a slew of health problems, including strokes, heart attacks, kidney failure, and even vision loss.
Your lifestyle plays a huge role in promoting healthy blood pressure levels—and a few nutrients in particular can be especially helpful. “Certain nutrients can be a good addition to a heart-healthy lifestyle,” says The Heart Dietitian Vanessa Rouse, R.D., C.D.E. They may help show your ticker some love by doing things like protecting blood vessels from damage and helping your blood vessels relax. “If you can’t obtain enough nutrients through food, then vitamin and mineral supplements may be a good way to ensure you are reaching your daily targets,” Rouse says.
If you’re looking to maximize your heart-healthy lifestyle, talk to your doctor or dietitian about the following supplements, each of which works to support healthy blood pressure.
The mineral magnesium helps regulate many body processes, one being blood pressure, explains The Vitamin Shoppe nutritionist Rebekah Blakely, R.D.N. “It does this by helping modulate calcium concentrations and increasing nitric oxide production, which helps blood vessels to relax,” she explains.
Multiple studies—including several discussed in one Hypertension meta-analysis—have shown that magnesium supplementation can support both healthy systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Other studies, like one published in the American Journal of Cardiology, have linked higher magnesium intake with decreased risk of hypertension.
Magnesium is found in leafy greens, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, milk, soymilk, yogurt, and dark chocolate. The daily recommendation is 420 milligrams for adult men and 320 milligrams for adult women—but a lot of people don’t get enough of this important mineral.
When supplementing, Blakely often recommends starting with 200 to 400 milligrams of a well-absorbed form like magnesium citrate or magnesium glycinate per day. (You can always work with your doctor or dietitian to increase as needed.) Another form, magnesium taurate, in which magnesium is combined with the amino acid taurine, may be an especially wise choice for those with heart health goals, as research has shown it can support healthy blood pressure, Blakely points out.
Beets are naturally high in nitrates, which our body converts into nitric oxide, a compound that supports vasodilation, or relaxation of the blood vessels, according to Blakely. This process, she says, can help increase blood flow and reduce blood pressure.
Studies have shown drinking beetroot juice to be an effective way to support healthy blood pressure. Drinking one cup of beetroot juice (or eating two beets) daily can offer health benefits. That said, if peeling and juicing beets is not your thing, there are multiple supplement forms, including powder and capsule options, that are easy to incorporate into your daily routine.
Not only is garlic great for adding flavor to your food, but it also possesses a range of health benefits. “Garlic contains antioxidant properties and has been shown to support healthy blood pressure,” Blakely says.
Many of garlic’s benefits, she explains, come from one of its organosulfur compounds called allicin, which may help the blood vessels relax and allow blood to flow more freely. Studies have shown garlic supplementation, specifically, to have blood pressure benefits, especially in those with hypertension. The amount used in most studies is between 600 and 1,200 milligrams daily, divided into two doses, according to Blakely. Sure, you could nosh on two to three garlic cloves daily, but if that’s not in the cards, consider a garlic supplement.
When it comes to promoting healthy blood pressure, the mineral potassium can work wonders. “Potassium has been shown to lower blood pressure by both relaxing the walls of our blood vessels and assisting the kidneys with excreting excess sodium that would otherwise cause blood pressure to rise,” explains dietitian Emily Iuzzolino, R.D. with health platform FlexIt.
Here’s the problem: Only two percent of Americans are getting enough of this essential mineral in their diet. The daily recommend value of potassium is 4,700 milligrams for adults and children aged four years and older. (A medium banana, by the way, contains about 422 milligrams.)
In a review of 23 clinical trials, researchers found that potassium supplements supported both healthy systolic and diastolic blood pressure. If you’re falling short, talk to your healthcare provider about whether a potassium supplement could help.
A plant in the rose family, hawthorn has been used for centuries to support heart health, from healthy circulation and blood pressure to heart rhythm, explains The Vitamin Shoppe nutritionist Roseanne Schnell, C.D.N. You see, hawthorn contains antioxidant flavonoids and health-promoting compounds known as OPCs (oligomeric procyanidins), which are also found in grapes. “These elements may help dilate blood vessels, improve blood flow, and protect blood vessels from damage,” Schnell says.
Research also suggests that hawthorn may promote healthy coronary artery blood flow, circulation, and blood pressure. Like some of the other natural powerhouses on this list, hawthorn’s blood pressure benefits are also linked to the opening of the blood vessels that occurs because of nitric oxide.
You’ll find hawthorn in a number of stand-alone herbal supplements, as well as in combination formulas created specifically to support healthy blood pressure, such as The Vitamin Shoppe brand’s Blood Pressure Support supplement.
An antioxidant your body produces naturally, CoQ10 is found in almost all cells of the body, Schnell says. Think of it as a superhero antioxidant, fighting free radicals, which can damage cell membranes and lead to serious health problems including heart disease.
One meta-analysis of 17 studies shows a significant connection between COQ10 and healthy systolic blood pressure, which is the top number in your blood pressure reading and indicative of how much pressure your blood exerts against your artery walls when your heart beats.
CoQ10 is a popular supplement, but it’s always a good idea to consult with your healthcare team before updating your routine.
7. Omega-3 Fish Oil
Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) can’t be manufactured by the body and are derived from food like fatty fish (think: salmon, mackerel, and trout), Schnell says. But, as it turns out, many people don’t get the recommended two servings of fatty fish per week on a consistent basis—and if you’re missing out on these good-for-you essential fatty acids, you’re also missing out on their wide-ranging health benefits as they support heart health, brain health, cell growth, and a healthy inflammatory response, Schnell says.
That’s where an omega-3 fish oil supplement could come in handy. In fact, studies have specifically linked omega-3 supplementation with healthy blood pressure. (An out-of-balance inflammatory response, among other things, can contribute to high BP.)