How to Reduce Blood Pressure
Most doctors will recommend lifestyle changes and natural ways to lower blood pressure for patients with elevated blood pressure, or mild to moderate hypertension (Stage 1 or Stage 2). If that does not work to get your blood pressure under control, they may also prescribe medications that can help.
High blood pressure is the result of too much pressure on your arteries when your heart is pumping blood to supply oxygen to your body. While genetics and other things out of your control can contribute to blood pressure risk, there are also many lifestyle factors that can make hypertension worse. These natural ways to lower blood pressure can keep you healthy.
1: Eat Healthy Foods to Lower Blood Pressure
A healthy diet is one of the most important lifestyle changes to make to lower your blood pressure. A healthy diet includes mostly:
- whole grains,
- nuts and seeds,
- lean meats (such as chicken and pork), and
- low-fat dairy.
Avoid foods high in saturated fats and cholesterol, such as red meat. These foods can cause a sticky substance called plaque to build up on the walls of your arteries, and harder the walls of your blood vessels and arteries. Both of these things force your heart to work harder to pump blood. Swap out processed foods like chips, crackers, and candy for the foods listed above whenever possible.
Other important dietary changes to discuss with your doctor include:
- eating less sodium (salt) and
- increasing potassium in your food or taking a potassium supplement.
Salt causes your body to retain water, which puts a strain on your kidneys and your blood vessels and raising blood pressure. Potassium relaxes the walls of your blood vessels to make it easier for blood to flow through, lowering blood pressure.
2: Lose Weight and Maintain a Healthy Weight
Extra body weight can increase your risk of hypertension because it causes many changes in your body. It can disrupt hormones that increase the risk of high blood pressure. It can also cause plaque buildup in your arteries, forcing your heart to work harder.
Being overweight or obese also increases the risk of obstructive sleep apnea, which is a common condition that contributes to high blood pressure. People with extra weight around their midsection (stomach) are at increased risk of high blood pressure. That includes men with a waist measuring 40 inches or more, and women with a waistline of 35 inches or more. Once you reach a healthy weight, continue to follow a heart-healthy diet to maintain that weight.
3: Exercise Often
Exercise helps strengthen your cardiovascular system (your heart and blood vessels) so they can efficiently pump blood throughout your body. It also helps prevent cholesterol and plaque buildup in your arteries. Experts at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommend that adults get 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. That is about 30 minutes of exercise a day for five days a week.
You don’t have to do intense or hard workouts to get the benefits of exercise. Take a brisk walk, do some strength training, or try interval training workouts. Before starting any new exercise program, be sure to talk to your doctor.
4: Quit Smoking and Smokeless Tobacco
Smoking cigarettes or using smokeless tobacco increases your risk of high blood pressure because nicotine causes your blood vessels to constrict (tighten). Narrow blood vessels mean your heart has to work harder to pump blood. Just 20 minutes after you quit smoking, blood pressure and heart rate drop dramatically, according to the American Heart Association. Within two weeks of quitting your circulation and lung function improve. Quitting smoking also improves your overall health and reduces your risk of heart disease.
5: Limit Alcohol and Caffeine Each Day
Drinking a lot of alcohol (more than one drink per day for women, or two drinks per day for men) can raise blood pressure. Plus, alcohol can interfere with blood pressure medications so they don’t work as well. Drinks that are high in caffeine can also cause a spike in blood pressure for some people.
6: Reduce Your Stress Levels
Chronic stress that lasts a long time can elevate blood pressure. You may not be able to eliminate all stress from your life, but it’s important to reduce stress as much as you can by:
- learning what triggers your stress and avoiding those things as much as possible;
- focusing on the things you can control and not worrying about things that are out of your control;
- practicing mindfulness, meditation, or deep breathing to reduce stress; and
- talking to a mental health professional, if needed.
7: Get Plenty of Quality Sleep
Quality sleep has many health benefits, such as lowering your blood pressure. To improve your sleep:
- Set a schedule and try to get at least seven hours of sleep per night.
- Create a healthy bedtime routine to prepare your body for sleep.
- Avoid naps during the day if possible.
- Avoid screens like smartphones or tablets before bed.
- Avoid caffeine later in the day.
- Create a comfortable, cool, and dark sleep environment.
8: Take Blood Pressure Medications as Prescribed
If your doctor prescribed you blood pressure medication, take it exactly as prescribed. Taking your medication at the same time each day can help you maintain a steady blood pressure and avoid spikes.
Tricks to Lower Blood Pressure Instantly
Sometimes following these steps is not enough, and there are things that can spike your blood pressure. When that happens, try these strategies to lower blood pressure quickly.
- Meditate or focus on deep breathing. Meditation and breathing exercises can help you relax, which slows your heart rate and lowers your blood pressure.
- Reduce your stress levels. Stress is one of the most common things that causes a rapid spike in blood pressure. Find what works to lower your stress, including sitting in a quiet space, stretching, or meditating.
- Take a warm bath or shower. Warm water can help you relax and reduce muscle tension.
When to Seek Medical Treatment for a High Blood Pressure Emergency
Blood pressure spikes above 180/90 are considered a hypertensive crisis. If your blood pressure gets to that level, go to the nearest emergency room or call 911. If you have any of these symptoms, seek medical help right away:
- chest pain,
- racing heartbeat that does not slow down,
- severe headache,
- signs of a stroke, or
- shortness of breath.
Schedule an Appointment
If you need help managing your high blood pressure, call 801-585-7676 to schedule an appointment to see a hypertension specialist.