Peter Hibberd, M.D., is a doctor whose advice is based on more than 28 years of hospital outpatient and inpatient experience. He is an experienced emergency medicine physician, surgeon, and consultant. Dr. Hibberd is certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine. He is also a fellow and active member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, an active member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, and a member and fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Hibberd has earned numerous national and international professional certifications, memberships, and awards.

Can Supplements Lower Blood Pressure And Improve Kidney Function?

Thursday, 08 July 2010 02:35 PM

Question: I had a mild heart attack three years ago at age 57 and had two stents implanted. I have high blood pressure, and somewhat impaired kidney function. I exercise regularly, don’t smoke or drink, am not under any stress and get plenty of sleep. From what I read, the diet that is best for impaired kidneys is not good for cardiovascular health. Do you have any advice on diet and/or supplements for my situation?

Dr. Hibberd's Answer:

Heart disease and high blood pressure often go hand-in-hand with eventual renal (kidney) function problems, usually related to vascular damage to the fine vessels and filtration network of our kidneys. Atherosclerosis and high pressures within our kidneys often lead to premature filtration failure. Each of our kidneys serves as a sieve that filters our blood of harmful end products of metabolism. Our kidneys also act as an exit point for many of the medications we consume.

Healthy diets for heart disease and hypertension will usually be low in sodium, low in fat and cholesterol, high in fiber, generous with dietary calcium, and will usually not be restricted in protein. As our kidneys deteriorate in function, we often need to balance our intake a little more carefully, and need pay strict attention to excess intake of potassium as well as limit foods high in protein.

Except for the need to balance electrolyte and protein intake, the cardiac diets are otherwise fine. Usually restrictions in diet for those with renal conditions are not necessary unless your condition is far advanced and close to, if not already needing, renal dialysis assistance.

It is always wise to obtain a dietician's consultation to help customize and prioritize foods that will complement your pre-existing medical conditions, minimize the load on failing systems, at least slow down, if not reverse, some of the vascular damage in our bodies.

No supplements have been shown to be medically proven to prevent or retard disease, and no supplements are known to retard renal or cardiovascular disease. Spend your money on quality food products and "supplement" only the areas you know may be either deficient in your diet or that your body needs in quantities greater than the average recommended amounts. Variations in needs are most often seen in patients with either pre-existing medical conditions, problems with absorption, or effects from necessary prescription medications.

Remember, the supplements sold over the counter are intended as food supplements only, and are not intended to treat or diagnose any medical conditions. The recent data on antioxidant use and the association of vitamin E with increased vascular disease and death are notable especially since we used to believe they prevented disease. This is a great illustration of our lack of caution with embracing new products and pills in the supplement area. This is a call to robust education programs directed at both adults and children on the importance of a well-rounded diet and judicious regular exercise.

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