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Blood Pressure

What is High Blood Pressure and how to control it.

I've had issues with hypertension in the past (even off cycle). With this article I want to detail what blood pressure is and what supplements you can use to control blood pressure, typically it's symptoms often aren't felt and can go unnoticed for quite some time.

Firstly let me explain what blood pressure is; essentially as blood is pumped from the heart, it pushes against the sides of the blood vessels. The strength of this pushing is your blood pressure. If your blood pressure is too high, it puts extra strain on your arteries (and in turn your heart) and this may lead to heart attacks and strokes down the line and left ventricular hypertrophy.

Typically a blood pressure monitor would be used to measure the blood pressure. If you're going on cycle it would be a good idea to purchase your own - readings taken in surgeries / clinics may have added stress and give an inaccurate reading.

The upper arm blood pressure monitors are more accurate than the wrist and finger monitors. Most body-builders will need to get a large cuff size size - (12.8" - 18"). Its also important to make sure the monitor has been clinically validated for accuracy. I'd recommend buying a well known brand such as Omron.

Blood pressure is measured in ‘millimetres of mercury’ (mmHg) and is written as two numbers. For example, if your reading is 120/80mmHg, your blood pressure is ‘120 over 80.’ The first reading represents your systolic blood pressure and the second represents your diastolic blood pressure reading.

I'll explain these in a bit more detail. Your systolic reading is the highest level your blood pressure reaches when your heart beats, whereas your diastolic reading is the lowest level your blood pressure reaches as your heart relaxes between beats.

Blood pressure ranges:

Category Systolic Diastolic
High Stage 2 160 and Upwards    100 and Upwards  
High Stage 1 140-159 90-99
Pre-Hypertension    121-139 81-89
Normal Less than 120 Less than 80

There are 3 main ways in which the body can control blood pressure:-

- The body can change the amount of blood the heart pumps
- The diameter of arteries
- The volume of blood in the bloodstream

Should the body wish to increase blood pressure, the heart can pump more blood by pumping more forcefully or more rapidly. Small arteries can constrict, which in turn forces the blood from each heartbeat through a narrower space than normal. Because the space in the arteries is narrower, the same amount of blood passing through them increases the blood pressure – think of this like constricting a garden hose and watching the pressure swell up behind the constriction.

Veins can also constrict to reduce their capacity to hold blood, forcing more blood into the arteries. As a result, blood pressure increases. Fluid can be added to the bloodstream to increase blood volume and thus increase blood pressure.

All of these are controlled through the bodies sympathetic system and the kidneys.

Sympathetic system:-

Stimulating the Adrenal glands to release epinephrine and norephinephrine which in turn causes the heart to beat harder & faster it also causes most arteries to constrict typically in areas where blood is not needed and to dilate where blood is needed e.g Skeletal muscle.

The sympathetic system also stimulates the kidney to decrease the excretion of sodium and water to increase blood volume


In direct response to high blood pressure, the kidneys can increase excretion of sodium and water, thus lowering the blood volume. The opposite is also applicable for increasing BP

The kidneys can also increase BP by releasing the enzyme “renin” which increases the excretion of several hormones which cause arteries to Constrict. This in turn releases several hormones in the kidney, notably aldosterone and anti diuretic hormone. Aldosterone causes the kidneys to retain salt (sodium) and excrete potassium. The sodium causes water to be retained, thus increasing blood volume and blood pressure

The human body likes homeostasis and usually finds a way to balance itself out. For example, when you go to the gym and carry out a set of heavy squats there is usually an increase in BP - if there isn’t then you need to put more weight on the bar! This causes the blood vessels to dilate and the kidneys to increase excretion of salt and water, which in turn decreases the BP and returns the body to homeostasis.

What can high blood pressure do?

Heart: HBP over time has been shown to increase the size of the heart and thicken the walls – this is because more force is needed to pump the blood around. Thicker walls = stiffer walls. This means that the heart becomes less efficient at pumping blood around the body which puts further strain on the body.

Blood vessels / Arteries: High blood pressure thickens the walls of arteries & blood vessels. This can lead to arteriosclerosis – and due to the increased strain on the heart, it can increase the risk of strokes and kidney failure.

Kidney Damage: The kidneys act as filters to rid the body of waste. Over time, high blood pressure can narrow and thicken the blood vessels of the kidneys. The kidneys filter less fluid, and waste builds up in the blood. The kidneys may fail altogether. When this happens, medical treatment (dialysis) or a kidney transplant may be needed.

Eyes: High blood pressure can cause blood vessels in the eye to burst or bleed. I'm sure some of you are familiar with powerlifters who have burst blood vessels in their eyes carrying out a 1 rep max. Vision may become blurred or otherwise impaired and can eventually result in blindness if left untreated.

Brain: High blood pressure is one of the most important risk factors for stroke. Very high pressure can cause a break in a weakened blood vessel, which then bleeds in the brain. This can cause a stroke. If a blood clot blocks one of the narrowed arteries, it can also cause a stroke.

Ways to control BP:

*** DIET! I cannot stress this enough! Reducing the ammount of sodium and junk food you eat will have a profound effect on BP! ***

Popular supplements you can include:-

Hawthorn – the recommended dose is 300mg 3 times daily. This herb dilates arteries and improves coronary blood flow reducing blood pressure. It also widens the coronary arteries and helps prevent the narrowing of blood vessels. It can act as a mild diuretic to reduce blood volume. Most patients who take hawthorn have a drop in blood pressure of 10 to 15 points over 8 weeks.

Fish Oil – Can lower BP, delay atherosclerosis, promote NO production,  reduce the risk of cardiac arrhythmia, reduce platelet agression

Coenzyme Q10 – Has been shown in studies to reduce systolic BP by up to 20 points over 10 weeks, it is typically used as a supplement to repair heart damage and to boost the function of the heart

Garlic – if you are taking blood thinners Garlic can be dangerous, studies have shown that 12 week supplementation with garlic significantly lowers Diastolic BP and cholesterol levels.
You can buy odourless garlic so that you don’t scare the women away  :biggrin:

Kudzu – Acts as a potent anti oxidant, many times stronger than vit e… in lab tests it was shown to reduce blood pressure in mice by up to 15%

Magnesium – 250 mg twice daily. Taken daily, helps to relax artery walls and increase blood flow – it also helps with the production of energy.

Onions – In one study, two to three tablespoons of onion essential oil a day lowered blood pressure in 67 percent of people with moderately high blood pressure. Their systolic levels fell an average of 25 points and their diastolic readings fell 15 points. Onion essential oil is not available, but you can promote healthy blood pressure by adding more onions to your diet

Potassium – Adequate intake of potassium from fruit and veg can lower BP – studies have shown that 4,100 mg of potassium can lower BP by an average of 7.2/2.8 mmHg

Celery – Celery contains a unique oil that relaxes the muscles that regulate blood pressure, improving flow, and lowering pressure. Just 4 stalks a day (or some celery juice) does the trick.

Many of these supplements can be found in our Support Supplements section here:

You'll also find a great variety of vitamins, minerals and health support supplements within our Vitamins & Mineral Supplements section, and our Essential Fatty Acids section:

Specific products to look at to help support healthy blood pressure would be:


By James