10 Natural Ways to Lower Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is common and affects one in three people in the world. We discuss natural ways to reduce blood pressure including diet, exercise and supplements.
If left unchecked, high blood pressure increases your risk of heart disease and stroke.
But there is good news. There are several things you can do to lower your blood pressure naturally, even without medication.
Here are 15 natural ways to fight high blood pressure.
1. Walk and exercise regularly
Exercise is one of the best things you can do to lower high blood pressure.
Regular exercise helps make your heart stronger and more efficient at pumping blood, which lowers the pressure in your arteries.
150 minutes of moderate exercise, such as walking, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, such as running, per week can help lower blood pressure and improve your heart health.
2. Reduce your sodium intake
Salt intake is high around the world. This is largely due to processed and prepared foods.
For this reason, many public health efforts are aimed at lowering salt in the food industry.
Many studies have linked a high salt intake with high blood pressure and cardiac events, including stroke.
However, recent research shows that the relationship between sodium and high blood pressure is less clear.
One reason for this may be genetic differences in how people process sodium. About half of people with high blood pressure and a quarter of people with normal levels seem to have a salt sensitivity.
If you already have high blood pressure, it's worth reducing your sodium intake to see if it makes a difference. Replace processed foods with fresh ones and try seasoning with herbs and spices rather than salt.
3. Drink less alcohol
Drinking alcohol can increase blood pressure. Alcohol is associated with 16% of high blood pressure cases around the world.
Although some studies have suggested that low to moderate amounts of alcohol may protect the heart, these benefits may be offset by negative effects.
In the United States, moderate alcohol consumption is defined as no more than one drink per day for women and two for men. If you drink more than that, cut back.
4. Eat more potassium-rich foods
Potassium is an important mineral.
It helps your body get rid of sodium and eases the pressure on your blood vessels.
Modern diets have increased most people's sodium intake while potassium intake has decreased.
To get a better balance of potassium and sodium in your diet, focus on eating fewer processed foods and more fresh, whole foods.
Foods that are particularly high in potassium include:
- vegetables, especially leafy greens, tomatoes, potatoes and sweet potatoes
- fruit, including melons, avocados , oranges and apricots
- dairy, such as milk and yogurt
- tuna and salmon
- nuts and seeds
5. Cut down on caffeine
If you've ever downed a cup of coffee before having your blood pressure taken, you know the caffeine causes an instant boost.
However, there is not much evidence to suggest that drinking caffeine regularly can cause a lasting increase.
People who drink caffeinated coffee and tea have a lower risk of heart disease, including high blood pressure, than those who don't.
Caffeine may have a stronger effect on people who do not consume it regularly.
If you suspect you're caffeine sensitive, cut back to see if it lowers your blood pressure.
6. Learn to deal with stress
Stress is a major driver of high blood pressure.
When you are chronically stressed, your body is in a constant state of fight or flight. On a physical level, this means a faster heart rate and narrow blood vessels.
When you're experiencing stress, you're also more likely to engage in other behaviors, such as drinking alcohol or eating unhealthy foods, that can negatively affect blood pressure.
Several studies have investigated how reducing stress can help lower blood pressure. Here are two evidence-based tips to try:
Listen to soothing music: Soothing music can help relax your nervous system. Research has shown it to be an effective adjunct to other blood pressure therapies.
Work less: Working a lot and stressful work situations are generally associated with high blood pressure.
7. Eat dark chocolate or cocoa
Here's a piece of advice you can get behind.
While eating huge amounts of dark chocolate probably won't help your heart, small amounts might.
That's because dark chocolate and cocoa powder are rich in flavonoids, which are plant compounds that cause blood vessels to dilate.
A review of studies found that flavonoid-rich cocoa improved several markers of heart health in the short term, including lowering blood pressure.
8. Lose weight
In people who are overweight, losing weight can make a big difference to heart health.
According to a 2016 study, losing 5% of your body mass can significantly reduce high blood pressure.
In previous studies, losing 17.64 pounds (8 kg) was associated with lowering systolic blood pressure by 8.5 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by 6.5 mm Hg.
To put that into perspective, a healthy reading should be less than 120/80 mm Hg.
The effect is even greater when weight loss is paired with exercise.
Losing weight can help your blood vessels dilate and contract better, making it easier for the heart's left ventricle to pump blood.
9. Stop smoking
Among the many reasons to quit smoking is that the habit is a strong risk factor for heart disease.
Each puff of cigarette smoke causes a slight, temporary increase in blood pressure. The chemicals in tobacco are also known to damage blood vessels.
Surprisingly, studies have not found a conclusive link between smoking and high blood pressure. Perhaps this is because smokers develop a tolerance over time.
However, since both smoking and high blood pressure increase the risk of heart disease, quitting smoking can help reduce this risk.
10. Cut added sugar and refined carbohydrates
There is a growing body of research showing a link between added sugar and high blood pressure.
In the Framingham Women's Health Study, women who drank even one soda per day had higher levels than those who drank less than one soda per day.
Another study found that having one less sugar-sweetened beverage per day was associated with lower blood pressure.
And it's not just sugar - all refined carbohydrates, e.g. The kind found in white flour - quickly turns into sugar in the bloodstream and can cause problems.
Some studies have shown that low-carb diets can also help reduce blood pressure.
A study of people treated with statins found that those who went on a 6-week, carbohydrate-restricted diet experienced a greater improvement in blood pressure and other heart disease markers than people who did not restrict carbohydrates.