Postmenopausal women who take prescription medications called calcium channel blockers to lower blood pressure may have increased odds of developing breast cancer, according to recent studies. Research published in the August issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association said in some cases the breast cancer risk may be more than doubled.

The reason for the link is still not clearly understood, but the research is cause for concern for the millions of women who take calcium channel blockers to manage hypertension. Calcium channel blockers prevent calcium from entering cells of the heart and blood vessel walls, resulting in wider vessels and lower blood pressure. More than 98 million prescriptions for calcium channel blockers are filled each year.

The information is particularly disturbing when you consider the fact that heart disease is the number one killer of women in this country and uncontrolled blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attacks and strokes. Heart disease claims more lives of women each year than breast cancer and lung cancer combined. Women who take blood pressure medications are struggling to find a risk-benefit ratio that is acceptable.

The answer lies in finding a natural alternative for lowering blood pressure that won't increase breast cancer risks. In recent years natto has gained popularity for its ability to lower blood pressure. Natto has been consumed in Japan for hundreds of years for its cardiovascular benefits. It is a cheese-like product made from boiled or steamed soybeans that are fermented with beneficial bacteria known as Bacillus subtilis or Bacillus natto.

The active ingredient in natto is nattokinase, a blood-enhancing enzyme. Natto helps decrease blood thickness, increases oxygen flow and attacks excess fibrin, the protein that sticks to the vessel walls and impedes blood flow. Like other soy products, natto contains isoflavones that may reduce cancer risks. It is also rich in many essential vitamins and minerals.

Traditional natto has a slippery consistency and a strong odor, although the taste is relatively mild. While natto may be difficult to find in some areas of the country, its active ingredient can be obtained in dietary supplements.

If you are a postmenopausal woman with high blood pressure you should talk with your holistic practitioner about natural alternatives for treating hypertension. A healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise and a diet that includes plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables can go a long way toward reducing blood pressure without increasing your risks for breast cancer.