The 'green' way to lower BP

The moment your blood pressure hits a certain level, your doc will sigh and pull out his prescription pad like he has no other choice.

But there's always another choice.

In fact, there are so many natural options for hypertension that there's no reason they shouldn't be tried before drugs -- and a new study adds one more safe alternative to the list: green tea.

You already know about this stuff, I'm sure, and how people drink green tea to help with everything from cancer protection to weight loss. Now, researchers find it can trim BP levels, too, and do it so well that it might even be able to tame hypertension in borderline cases.

Researchers in Poland gave 56 obese patients with hypertension either 379 mg a day of green tea extract or a placebo. Three months later, the ones who got the extract shaved nearly 5 points each off both their systolic ("top number") and diastolic ("bottom number") readings.

Those on a placebo, on the other hand, saw drops of just 0.8 and 0.6 mmHg, respectively, or almost nothing at all.

In addition, the green tea drinkers had lower levels of the inflammation marker C-reactive protein, improvements in LDL and HDL cholesterol levels, and even better blood sugar control.

But if you're obese and battling high blood pressure, your first step shouldn't be to reach for a cup of green tea or a green tea extract -- it should be to lose the weight.

In many cases, weight loss alone will bring your BP levels down to where they should be.

As I mentioned earlier, green tea can help there too. Studies have shown that green tea can help boost the body's ability to burn off energy, which in turn could lead to weight loss.

Just don't expect to sip some tea or take green tea extract and watch the pounds slip off by magic. You'll need to improve your eating habits, too -- and for that, I recommend the Mediterranean Diet.

The Mediterranean Diet can also help normalize blood pressure if it's high or prevent high blood pressure in people who don't have it yet. It's also great for weight loss, and can help prevent any number of diseases.

Green tea isn't from the Mediterranean, but feel free to drink some just the same.