7 ways to lower blood pressure naturally

Jason Bonomo, MD, PhD, is a cardiologist at Inova Schar Heart and Vascular. Dr. Bonomo is board-certified in cardiovascular disease, echocardiography and internal medicine and has a PhD in molecular medicine and translational science. He practices at the Inova Cardiology – Fairfax and Ballston offices and cares for patients at Inova Fairfax and Inova Fair Oaks hospitals.

High blood pressure (hypertension) affects nearly half of all adults in the U.S. People with high blood pressure have an increased risk of serious health conditions including heart attack, stroke and kidney disease.

But there’s good news: You can take steps to lower your blood pressure and slash your risk of these complications. And many of these strategies don’t involve medications. You can start doing these things today and get on the path to a healthier you.

What is high blood pressure?

Blood pressure measures how hard blood is pushing on your artery walls. Your measurement includes two numbers:

  • The upper number is your systolic blood pressure, or the pressure inside your arteries when your heart contracts (beats).
  • The lower number, or diastolic blood pressure, is the pressure inside your arteries when your heart is relaxed.

A normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 mm Hg. “Elevated” blood pressure is an upper number of 120-129 and a lower number of less than 80. An upper number above 130 or a lower number above 80 is “high” blood pressure.

What are symptoms of high blood pressure?

High blood pressure typically doesn’t cause any symptoms. It’s called the “silent killer” because millions of people have high blood pressure and don’t know it. Complications from high blood pressure contribute to hundreds of thousands of deaths each year.

Usually, only the most severe cases of high blood pressure cause symptoms. If your blood pressure rises above 180/120 mm Hg, you might experience headaches, blurry vision and trouble concentrating. Blood pressure at this level is known as hypertensive urgency and requires emergency medical care.

Home remedies for high blood pressure

Natural treatments for blood pressure can benefit everyone. If you have elevated blood pressure, these steps can bring your levels into the normal range. If you have high levels and need medications, these changes can boost the effects of your treatment. And if you don’t have high blood pressure, following a few tips can help you prevent it.

Consider these evidence-based ways to lower blood pressure without medications:

1. Exercise

Regular physical activity is a highly effective way to treat high blood pressure without medications. You don’t need to join a gym or buy fancy equipment. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity five days a week. After 12 weeks of this routine, most people lower their blood pressure by 5 to 8 mm Hg.

Need some ideas to get started? Go for two 15-minute walks. Go biking for 30 minutes. Dance in your living room while you listen to your favorite music. You’re doing the correct intensity if you can talk — but not sing — during your activity.

2. Lose 10 pounds

Being overweight or obese is a significant cause of high blood pressure. Losing a little excess weight can have big benefits. Most people lower their systolic blood pressure by 5 mm Hg when they lose 10 pounds.

Avoid extreme diets, which are difficult to maintain over the long term. Instead, aim to lose no more than 1 to 2 pounds per week for lasting weight loss. Cut calories by replacing higher-calorie, processed foods with fruits and vegetables. And consider using technology to your advantage. Apps that record your food and calorie intake have been shown to help patients lose – and keep off – weight.

3. Stop smoking

Smoking constricts your blood vessels, increasing your blood pressure. People who smoke also have a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, lung disease and cancer.

It can be hard to quit smoking, but it’s worth the effort. Two weeks after quitting, your blood circulation begins to improve. And after one year, your risk of heart disease is cut in half.

Inova’s Smoking Cessation Program can help you on your journey to becoming smoke-free. This program provides counseling, behavioral therapy, medications and nicotine products to set you up for success.

4. Do the DASH diet

When you eat foods high in sodium, your body holds onto excess water to balance it out. Some extra water goes into your blood, raising your blood pressure.

Even if you don’t reach for the salt shaker, you could still be consuming too much sodium. The average American gets 3,400 mg daily — well above the recommendation of 2,400 mg. Much of this sodium comes from processed foods, bread, pizza, cold-cut meats and soups.

Following the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan can lower your blood pressure by 6 to 11 mm Hg in just a few weeks. With DASH, you focus on fresh fruits and veggies and minimize foods high in sodium and saturated fat. The guidelines are flexible, and you can choose foods that suit your tastes.

5. Cut back on alcohol

Drinking too much alcohol can affect blood pressure, but you don’t have to give up cocktails completely. Stick to a moderate amount of alcohol — no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.

6. Make sleep a priority

During sleep, your blood pressure naturally drops. If you get less than the minimum seven hours of sleep per night, your blood pressure stays elevated for more hours in your day. Lack of quality sleep can also lead to more water retention and higher blood pressure.

Sleep apnea is a common but often overlooked cause of high blood pressure. If you’re taking blood pressure medications but your levels are still high, consider whether sleep apnea could be the reason. Ask your provider about sleep health and whether you might benefit from a sleep study.

7. Manage stress

The body’s stress response releases hormones that temporarily constrict blood vessels and raise blood pressure. If stress only happens occasionally, your blood pressure will return to normal. But if you have frequent, ongoing stress, your blood pressure can creep up.

We can’t avoid all stress, but we can manage it. Research shows that meditation can lower blood pressure, especially when you combine it with other heart-healthy choices.

Your PCP is your blood pressure partner

Making heart-healthy lifestyle changes isn’t always easy, but you don’t have to do it alone. Your primary care provider (PCP) can help you adopt doable changes that will help boost your heart health. Looking for a PCP? Inova’s primary care team serves patients at locations across Northern Virginia and beyond.

If treatment by your PCP is not able to bring your blood pressure under control, they will refer you to a cardiologist for further follow-up.

Learn more about our award-winning program and services at Inova Schar Heart and Vascular.

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