Vitamin C For Blood Pressure: The Surprising Benefits
High blood pressure has become a source of concern for many adults as they grow older. Having your blood pressure taken used to be a routine task at yearly check-ups but is now a focal point and often a matter of worry. So, what can you do to decrease your blood pressure naturally without taking medications, which are all too often accompanied by unwanted side effects? A study recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that taking vitamin C for blood pressure may help lower systolic blood pressure (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DCP).
Vitamin C for Blood Pressure? How Will That Help?
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that chemically binds to free radicals preventing them from potentially harming your body. The powerful vitamin also assists your body in using the food you eat—in particular, proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Several clinical trials have been carried out to determine whether taking vitamin C for blood pressure can help. One study showed that taking 500 milligrams of vitamin C per day for eight weeks helped to lower SBP by 3 mm Hg, and DBP was also reduced by almost 1.5 mm Hg in healthy volunteers. Taking vitamin C for blood pressure was also shown to help those suffering from high blood pressure, or hypertension, with a reported decrease of almost 5 mm Hg for SBP and 1.6 mm Hg for DBP.
Taking vitamin C for blood pressure was also highly recommended by the late Nobel Prize-winning chemist and humanitarian Dr. Linus Pauling, who long touted the remarkable health benefits of vitamin C and advocated high doses of the vitamin—5000 mg a day—to treat disease. Healthy people can easily tolerate high doses. Moreover, vitamin C administered intravenously—instead of orally—is purported to help those suffering many illnesses, such as infections, high blood sugar, heart damage, and even cancer. With any supplement, it’s important to make sure the supplement is pure. While it may be tempting to pick up a bottle of vitamin C for blood pressure at your local convenience store, these pills may not always live up to the claims written on the bottle. Buying your supplements should be done carefully and cautiously, and it’s always best to purchase independently lab-tested vitamins from a reputable manufacturer.
Blood Pressure and the NEM Stress Response
Your blood pressure is represented by two numbers reflecting your SBP and DBP. Your SBP (the higher number) is the force required by your heart to push blood into the arteries and your DBP (the lower number) is the pressure in your arteries between heartbeats. High blood pressure is a serious concern since if uncontrolled, pressure in your heart and blood vessels can increase to dangerous levels. This can lead to an increased risk of stroke, burst blood vessels in the brain resulting in bleeding, heart attack, and even kidney failure.
If you’ve been told you have high blood pressure, you may be thinking you just need to relax more. Perhaps, you’re too uptight, too worried, or too stressed. However, high blood pressure is more than just being “too” something. It can be caused by a variety of triggers including a poor diet, genetics (your parents or relatives may also struggle with high blood pressure), increased weight gain, adrenal disorders, and yes, even a stressful lifestyle. So it may be tempting to grab some vitamin C for blood pressure as a quick fix, however, it should only be taken under the supervision of a qualified healthcare practitioner.
While stress in your life may take on many different forms, your body does not differentiate between the type of stress you are experiencing. For example, your body cannot differentiate between a bad day at work and the flu virus, a major operation, or the death of a loved one, which can all be equally difficult to cope with. Although this may seem strange, it’s just how your body responds to stress. The NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) stress response system works as an alert and controls the various functions that help your body deal with stress to return your body back to normal as soon as possible. This is achieved via six interconnected circuits: the hormonal, bioenergetics, detoxification, inflammation, cardionomic, and neuroaffective circuits.
The Cardionomic Circuit and Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome
The cardionomic circuit controls whether your body raises or lowers blood pressure in response to internal or external triggers via the so-called cardionomic triad—made up of the adrenal glands, cardiovascular system, and autonomic nervous system. When working correctly, the cardionomic triad allows your body to respond appropriately to stressful situations as they arise. However, just like a three-legged stool, if one of the legs is weak, the other two must work harder and harder to maintain balance. This is also true within your body and exactly how dysregulation of your cardionomic circuit can occur.
Cardionomic circuit dysfunction can cause cravings for salty or fatty foods and many other symptoms as your cortisol output and adrenal function are affected. At first, symptoms may be mild and tend to be ignored, but eventually, they will start to worsen. Signs may show up in the form of increased sugar cravings, low blood sugar levels, and increased tiredness accompanied by exercise intolerance. If left uncorrected, your autonomic nervous system may also begin to struggle. Additional symptoms—many of which can be terrifying—may start to appear, such as increased anxiety, panic attacks, feeling lightheaded while standing, and an increased heart rate. If these symptoms are not addressed, your health may begin to spiral downwards leading to worsening symptoms, such as heart arrhythmias and palpitations. Therefore, a healthy cardionomic circuit is crucial to your overall health.
For your NEM stress response to keep your body in a state of homeostasis, it’s important to give your body the right nutrients and choose healthy lifestyle habits. Without the right nutrients, your body can begin to show signs of Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS). It’s critical to recognize this condition because it means your body is not producing the right amount of cortisol to bring your body back to homeostasis after a stressful event. Similar to cardionomic circuit dysfunction, with AFS your entire body will start to suffer. Symptoms can show up as changes in blood pressure and catching colds and flu more often.
The adrenal glands do not have an endless supply of energy to make the necessary hormones that take care of your body during times of stress. Therefore, it is essential to make sure your diet and lifestyle are helping to restore to your body rather than always depleting it.
Should you take vitamin C for blood pressure control?
It is important to understand that each person is different. Therefore, it may be best to speak to your healthcare provider before you start taking vitamin C for blood pressure or any new supplements. In saying that, this simple and inexpensive supplement can provide many benefits.
A Word of Caution
Supplements are very popular and can be purchased almost anywhere including gas stations, convenience stores, superstores (Walmart or Costco), and health food stores. Just remember that supplements made by each manufacturer will be slightly different. Moreover, although vitamin C does not have any dangerous side effects, it’s best to make sure that vitamin C for blood pressure is safe for you to take. Some medications can interact with supplements, even vitamin C, so you may need to alter the time you take certain supplements so they do not interfere with any medication you may be taking. Always play it safe with supplements and with your health.
The health benefits of citrus fruits, which are high in vitamin C, have been recognized for a long time. While scurvy has mostly been eradicated around the world, researchers are constantly discovering new ways vitamin C can benefit your health. Taking vitamin C for blood pressure may help to lower your SBP and DBP, especially if you struggle with high blood pressure.
Preventing the downward spiral of AFS is vital to maintaining a healthy NEM stress response. The cardionomic circuit is responsible for how your heart responds to various stressors and can raise or lower your blood pressure depending on the situation. High blood pressure can be a serious concern and should not be taken lightly. The best thing you can do for your health today is to speak with your healthcare provider about vitamin C supplements.
© Copyright 2012 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
Dr. Lam’s Key Question
Should you take vitamin C for blood pressure control?
It’s important to understand that every person is different. Therefore, you should talk to your healthcare provider before taking vitamin C for blood pressure or any new supplements. This simple inexpensive supplement could provide you with many health benefits.
Hello Dr. Lam
Thank you kindly for this speedy and clear response. I can’t thank you enough and wish there were more doctors like you. It is people like you who prove that we still remain the noblest of professions.
Thank you again for your comprehensive explanation and a game plan - deeply appreciated.
Remain always blessed.