How to Lower Your Blood Pressure

Your Roadmap for Achieving Optimal Blood Pressure

High blood pressure or hypertension is increasingly common, affecting nearly 50% of adults in the U.S.1 Your blood pressure is a measure of how much force is exerted on the walls of your arteries when your blood is being pumped through your body. Blood pressure is measured by two values: systolic pressure, which is the force when your heart beats, and diastolic pressure, the force when your heart is at rest between beats. In most cases, a normal systolic blood pressure reading should be below 120 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), and diastolic should be below 80 mm Hg.2 Anyone whose blood pressure is above one or both levels should be aware of the risks of high blood pressure.
 

High blood pressure can be hazardous because it often does not cause symptoms, so many do not even realize their blood pressure is elevated. If left uncontrolled, it can lead to serious diseases like stroke or heart attacks. Fortunately, a variety of healthy lifestyle practices have been shown to be effective in lowering blood pressure, whether you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure or are looking for ways to prevent your blood pressure from becoming high. 

6 Ways to Lower Your Blood Pressure Naturally

The best approach to lowering blood pressure without medication involves a combination of the following proven practices.

1. Exercise

Exercise is one of the best ways to lower blood pressure because a strong heart can pump blood with less effort. Aerobic activity to lower blood pressure doesn’t have to be high intensity; it can be as simple as walking, gardening, or doing yoga. To be considered aerobic, the activity should increase your heart rate and breathing.3 

Experts recommend getting at least 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic activity or 1.25 hours of vigorous aerobic activity each week. One way to determine whether your activity is moderate or vigorous is with the talk test. If you’re able to talk, but not sing, during the activity, your exercise is moderate. If you’re not able to say more than a few words, your exercise is vigorous.4 Incorporating one or more forms of weight training into your exercise regimen 2 days per week is also important for heart health.  

Research shows that starting an exercise routine can lead to diastolic blood pressure drops between 4- and 12-mm Hg and systolic blood pressure reductions between 3- and 6-mm Hg.3 

2. Eat a balanced diet

What you eat plays a crucial role in raising or lowering blood pressure. An eating plan called the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) is a scientifically proven diet that has been shown to significantly lower blood pressure. DASH is low in saturated and trans-fat, cholesterol, and sugar-sweetened products. It is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and poultry, and low-fat dairy products. The DASH eating plan can lower systolic blood pressure by up to 12 mm Hg.5 The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offers more information on how to follow the DASH eating plan.
 

Another blood pressure-lowering benefit of maintaining a healthy diet is that it can be an important ingredient in weigh management, which, in turn, is also effective in lowering blood pressure.6 You can use an online tool or work with a health care provider to determine how many calories you burn daily based on your activity level. If you want to maintain your weight, you should try to eat around the same number of calories as you burn. If you want to lose weight, eat less calories, and if you want to gain weight, eat more calories.

3. Reduce salt intake, especially highly refined table salt

In addition to eating a well-rounded diet, it’s also critical to limit your salt intake when trying to lower your blood pressure. Robust research studies have shown that combining the DASH eating plan with reducing salt intake is more effective in lowering blood pressure than following DASH on its own. Experts recommend that adults cap their sodium intake at 2300 milligrams per day.7 For people with high blood pressure or other health conditions, limiting salt to 1,500 milligrams daily may be more appropriate.8 

Straightforward tips for lowering your salt intake include: 

  • Check nutrition labels to see how much sodium is included and opt for low- or no-sodium products. 
  • Choose fresh, lean cuts of meat over meat that has been cured, brined, or smoked. 
  • Flavor your food with spices, herbs, citrus, and seasoning blends that don’t contain salt. 
  • Avoid processed foods like frozen dinners and packaged or canned meals, which tend to contain high levels of sodium. 
  • Cook at home to control the amount of salt that is added to your food and choose salts that include trace minerals and are not highly refined.

4. Limit or quit alcohol

Not only does drinking alcohol put stress on your heart, but it also temporarily raises your blood pressure while it is in your system. Long-term heavy alcohol consumption can lead to chronically high blood pressure. Cutting heavy alcohol consumption down to moderate levels (one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men) has been shown to lower systolic blood pressure by around 5.5 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by around 4 mm Hg.9 

5. Quit nicotine

Nicotine is another factor that raises blood pressure, so if you smoke or use other nicotine products, quitting is a powerful way to lower your blood pressure. In fact, research shows that your blood pressure starts to go down within half an hour of quitting.10 Long-term smoking cessation can lead to a blood pressure decrease of up to 20 mm Hg.11 

6. Control stress

Stress wreaks havoc on your body, causing a stress response that releases stress hormones, elevating your heart rate, and constricting your blood vessels. These processes raise blood pressure temporarily. However, the relationship between chronic, long-term stress and blood pressure isn’t fully understood yet.12 

It is unclear whether stress can directly cause high blood pressure, but we do know that stress is linked with a higher risk of smoking, drinking alcohol, and eating unhealthy foods, all of which do cause high blood pressure. Additionally, some evidence suggests that stress may damage arteries and blood vessels, which could affect blood pressure and risk for heart disease.13 Therefore, it’s important to manage your stress levels to manage your blood pressure levels.
 

To keep your stress under control, try practicing breathing exercises, engaging in physical activity, setting aside sufficient time for a full night’s sleep, moderating your schedule, and seeking support from family and friends.  

Supplements to Lower Blood Pressure

Several nutritional supplements have solid scientific evidence backing their use in the management of blood pressure. Some supplements can be dangerous for certain people, such as those with kidney disease or who are taking certain medications. A health care professional can help you understand the risks and benefits of supplements for your specific situation and which supplement(s) may be right for you.  

  • Potassium. Potassium counteracts the effects of sodium by causing the body to eliminate more salt through urine. Potassium supplements administered for at least 4 weeks have been shown to be effective in lowering systolic blood pressure by around 5 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by around 3 mm Hg.14 
  • Magnesium. Magnesium is a mineral found in the body and in many foods. Part of its role in the body is to regulate blood pressure, so researchers have investigated whether magnesium supplements may lower blood pressure.15 Multiple studies have demonstrated that taking magnesium supplements is associated with lowering systolic blood pressure by up to 4 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by around 2.5 mm Hg. Based on this research, the optimal dose appears to be between 500 and 1000 milligrams per day.16 However, people with kidney disease should avoid magnesium.  
  • L‐arginine. L-arginine is an amino acid that is made naturally by the body and can also be found in meat and dairy products. It improves blood flow by acting as a blood vessel dilator (opener).17 Research indicates that using a L-arginine-containing supplement for 4 weeks may lower systolic blood pressure by around 5 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by around 3 mm Hg.16,18 
  • Vitamin C. Having a vitamin C deficiency increases your risk for high blood pressure, and one study found that supplementing vitamin C at 500 milligrams per day for 2 months was associated with decreases in systolic blood pressure (around 4 mm Hg) and diastolic blood pressure (around 1.5 mm Hg).19 Some early research also indicates that vitamin C supplements may increase the effectiveness of blood pressure medication.20 
  • Cocoa flavonoids. Cocoa beans contain potent compounds called flavonoids that have been investigated for their health benefits, including lowering blood pressure. Studies looking at isolated flavonoids as well as chocolate bars have found varying effects on blood pressure. A review of 10 studies found a mean decrease of 4.5 mm Hg systolic and 2.5 mm Hg diastolic blood pressure with different dosage levels across the studies.21 
  • Beets. Interest in beetroot as a blood pressure-lowering food product is based on its high concentrations of nitrates which the body converts to nitric oxide to improve the delivery of blood and oxygen to muscle tissue, promoting cardiovascular health.22 Several studies have shown an association between beetroot juice ingestion and lowered systolic blood pressure by around 4 mm Hg.16 
  • Garlic. Long known for its heart-protective properties, part of the way garlic acts in the body is as a regulator of blood vessel contraction and relaxation. Many research studies investigating the role of garlic supplements in controlling blood pressure have shown its powerful effects. Most of these studies provided between 600 and 900 milligrams of supplemental garlic per day, and across studies the mean systolic decrease was around 5 mm Hg and diastolic decrease was around 2.5 mm Hg.23 
  • Omega 3 fatty acids. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are omega 3 fatty acids that promote cardiovascular health by reducing inflammation and promoting blood vessel dilation, which naturally modulates blood pressure.24 EPA and DHA supplementation at around 3 grams per day has been tied to reductions in blood pressure of about 2 to 4 mm Hg.25
  •  Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). CoQ10 is believed to lower blood pressure by preserving a substance called nitric oxide, which relaxes the arteries. Research studies on CoQ10 supplements have produced varied results, with some studies showing that they lower blood pressure and others showing no effect.26 One review found that those who supplemented between 30mg – 100mg of CoQ10 per day lowered their systolic blood pressure by 11 mm Hg and lowered diastolic blood pressure by 7 mm Hg after 4 weeks.16 

Blood Pressure Medication

In some cases, blood pressure is too high to control with lifestyle changes alone. Working closely with a health care professional is the only way to determine the risks and benefits of taking a blood pressure medication for your specific situation.  

Different types of medications for lowering blood pressure are available, including:27 

  • ACE inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor blockers or ARBs. These drugs prevent your blood vessels from narrowing and include benazepril (Lotensin) and losartan (Cozaar). 
  • Calcium channel blockers. Calcium channel blockers prevent calcium from entering your heart and blood vessels, which encourages the heart and blood vessels to relax. Examples include amlodipine (Norvasc) and diltiazem (Cardizem, Tiazac). 
  • Diuretics. These medications, including torsemide (Demadex) and hydrochlorothiazide (Esidrix), remove extra water and salt from the body which makes it easier for the heart to pump blood.

These drugs can be prescribed alone or in combination. However, a person’s overall medication burden is a risk factor for nutrient depletion. For example, research indicates that various blood pressure medications may deplete the body’s stores of CoQ10, potassium, calcium, and zinc. Additionally, blood pressure drugs may interact with other medications, so it’s important to give your doctor a full picture of other drugs and supplements you take.28 

Even if you take blood pressure medication, it’s important to engage in healthy behaviors like eating a balanced diet, reducing sodium intake, and exercising so that the medication can be as effective as possible. By lowering your blood pressure, you can lower your risk for life-threatening diseases like stroke and heart attack. 

Blood Pressure FAQs

How Long Does It Take to Lower Blood Pressure?

How long it takes to lower your blood pressure depends on the specific lifestyle change(s) you are making. Following the DASH diet can translate to lower blood pressure in as little as 2 weeks.29 Regular exercise typically leads to blood pressure results within 1 to 3 months.3 Most studies looking at supplements to lower blood pressure track participants over the course of 1 to 3 months. Some medications start lowering blood pressure on the first day, while others may take a few weeks.30 

What Causes High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure can affect anyone. Some people are more likely to develop high blood pressure such as people with a family history of hypertension, people who are older than 55 years old, and African Americans.31 Other factors that increase risk for high blood pressure include being overweight, eating a high-salt diet, having an inactive lifestyle, smoking, and heavy alcohol consumption. Some of these characteristics are outside of your control, such as your age, but many of them are based on lifestyle, such as nutrition and exercise.  

When it comes to managing or preventing high blood pressure, it’s important to look at what changes you can make while also working with a health professional to consider your overall health and family history to determine your risk level.  

How Do You Know if You Have High Blood Pressure?

A blood pressure test is a normal part of a routine checkup appointment. If you’re curious about your blood pressure, you can ask your doctor to take it and inquire about how it compares to your previous blood pressure tests. Other options for obtaining a blood pressure reading include using a digital blood pressure machine available at many pharmacies or purchasing and using a home blood pressure monitor.
 
Some people feel nervous about getting their blood pressure taken, a phenomenon called “white coat syndrome,” and may get a falsely high result at a doctor’s office.32 It can be helpful to have your blood pressure checked multiple times under different circumstances to get an accurate picture of your heart health.  

What Are the Health Effects of High Blood Pressure? 

High blood pressure can cause damage to your arteries and organs and raises your risk for developing numerous diseases, including:33 

  • Stroke 
  • Heart attack and heart failure 
  • Kidney disease 
  • Loss of vision 
  • Sexual impairment 

The good news is that by working with a health care professional, making healthy lifestyle adjustments, and potentially using supplements and medication, you can lower your blood pressure and keep your cardiovascular system strong and healthy.  

 

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References 

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Alexa Fry is a health educator with a certificate in technical writing and 10 years of experience in the medical field. She has held roles as a science writer and clinical trial specialist at the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Information Service. She also wrote, edited, and coordinated content for Testing.com, SleepFoundation.org, and SleepDoctor.com. Alexa is passionate about making meaningful, actionable medical information available to everyone.