The supplemental form of melatonin (the "sleep" hormone) may alleviate nocturnal hypertension (a form of high blood pressure that occurs during sleep). In most people, blood pressure drops by 10% to 20% during sleep. But about one-quarter of people with prehypertension or hypertension are "non-dippers"—their sleeping pressure is about as high as or higher than their waking pressure.

High blood pressure during sleep (which is diagnosed by a 24-hour blood pressure monitor) is particularly common among blacks and people with chronic kidney disease, and it worsens their risk for heart attack, stroke and kidney failure. Researchers at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital have found that 25 mg of melatonin, taken one hour before bedtime, may lower systolic (top number) pressure by an average of 6 mmHg and diastolic (bottom number) pressure by 4 mmHg during sleep.

My advice: If you know that you have nocturnal hypertension, or if you have hypertension plus insomnia or chronic kidney disease, ask your doctor about taking melatonin. At the very least, it may help you sleep better.

Tea That Lowers Blood Pressure

Among 95 tea drinkers (average age 565), those who drank three cups of black tea daily for six months saw their systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure readings drop by three and two points, respectively. Even such small drops in blood pressure translate into a 7% to 10% drop in risk for cardiovascular disease.

Theory: Flavonoids in black tea may improve the functioning of endothelial cells that line the blood vessels.

Pop a Purple Potato to Lower Blood Pressure

In a recent study, 18 overweight people with high blood pressure ate about seven golf ball-sized purple potatoes twice daily for a month. The potatoes with skins were cooked in a microwave.

Result: The study participants' diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure readings dropped 4%, on average, and their systolic (top number) readings were 35% lower. None of the participants gained weight. Purple potatoes are available at specialty-food stores and some supermarkets.

A Delicious Way to Reduce Blood Pressure by 10%

In one of the first population-based studies to look at the effect of flavonoids on high blood pressure, researchers from the University of East Anglia in England found that blueberries' powerful antioxidant flavonoid anthocyanin can help keep pressure down. Eat one-half cup of blueberries (fresh or frozen) five times weekly.

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