Controlling Blood Pressure Naturally – Flaxseed’s Impressive Antihypertensive Effect and a Simple Heart Healthy Smoothie Recipe

by Leigh on December 5, 2012

flaxseed for lowering blood pressure natural heart health diet

Two heaped dessert spoons of ground flaxseed could make a dramatic difference to your risk of stroke and heart attack.

Including flaxseed in the diet could halve the number of strokes and cut heart attacks by around a third according to a new study. The researchers, working in Cuba, found that flaxseed decreased blood pressure more dramatically than any other dietary intervention ever studied. Presenting their findings at the American Heart Association 2012 Scientific Sessions, Dr. Delfin Rodriquez of University Hospital Holguin, Cuba, reported success in treating patients with peripheral arterial disease but these findings could lead to new recommendations for a naturally healthy heart.

Significant Antihypertensive Effect from Flaxseed

The patients with PAD who were given flaxseed in this double-blind, placebo-controlled study experienced large drops in blood pressure of 10mm Hg systolic and 7mm Hg diastolic after six months. Patients with PAD and hypertension had an even greater drop in systolic blood pressure of around 15mm Hg compared to the overall study group. Around 75% of those with PAD have hypertension for which they may be prescribed a low-salt diet, blood pressure drugs and advice to lose weight if considered overweight.

Flaxseed as a Cost-Effective Weapon Against Heart Disease and Stroke

Many of those in economically disadvantaged communities or countries have difficulties accessing proper care for hypertension which makes flaxseed an even more attractive option for effectively cutting the rates of strokes and heart attacks. Animal studies have already given flaxseed a reputation as antiatherogenic, anti-inflammatory and antiarrhythmic as well as looking promising as a way of reducing circulating cholesterol and trans-fatty acid levels.

Just 30g of Milled Flaxseed Lowers BP

Patients included in the study were randomized to receive either the milled flaxseed in bagels, muffins or buns each day or a placebo product similar in flavour but without the flaxseed. The trial was set to extend for a year, with patients given 30g of milled flaxseed daily. Anti-hypertensive medications were being taken by 80% of the 110 patients involved in the study, with around 75% of them diagnosed with high blood pressure.

Blood Pressure Increased in Control Group

At the six-month mark, Rodriguez reports that both SBP and DBP have decreased significantly in those patients receiving the flaxseed compared with placebo. In fact, the SBP increased in the placebo group by around 3mm Hg, and DBP stayed the same. The one-year results are currently being analysed and the group hopes to shed some light on which constituents of flaxseed, if any, are responsible for these dramatic reductions in blood pressure.

How Flaxseed Lowers Blood Pressure

heart healthy smoothie with flaxseed bananas and blueberry

For a heart healthy smoothie blend 2tbsp milled flax, 1 banana, 1 cup blueberries and a cup of soy or almond milk or yoghurt and ice cubes.

Those in the group receiving flaxseed daily were also found to have doubled their plasma alpha-linolenic acid levels and to have ten times the enterolactone levels compared to baseline (levels at the start of the study, before the flaxseed regimen commenced). Those in the placebo group had neither the decrease in blood pressure from flaxseed, nor the increase in the levels of these substances. It is possible that ALA, enterolignans and fiber in the milled flaxseed work together to significantly lower blood pressure through a variety of mechanisms. Adding just 30g of milled flaxseed each day could make a huge difference to heart health, naturally. Such an intervention would also help avoid the side-effects common with blood pressure medications, as well as reduce healthcare costs.

Flaxseed’s Nutrient Profile

When using flaxseed it is important to minimise the seed’s exposure to light, heat and air as this can damage the essential fatty acids and reduce the possible benefit of the food. Milling a small quantity daily and adding it to cooling porridge, cereal, smoothies and salads makes it easy to emulate this study. It is advisable to refrigerate pre-milled flaxseed in an airtight container, or keep the seeds in the refrigerator and simply use a coffee grinder to grind some up each day (it helps to have a separate coffee grinder to avoid flavour transference). Two heaped dessert spoons is roughly equal to 30g of milled flaxseed and this provides around 7g of omega 3. There is also around 8g of fibre in this size serving, as well as 80mg of calcium, 2mg iron and 1mg of zinc. The merit of using flaxseed as part of a diet for a naturally healthy heart has been given a boost by this research and it may be that flaxseed’s impressive antihypertensive effect puts it front and centre in future heart health advice.

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