High blood pressure, also called hypertension, affects nearly 50% of the U.S. adult population.
It’s often referred to as the “silent killer,” because many people with high blood pressure don’t experience symptoms and, when left untreated, it can pose a serious risk to health.
High blood pressure refers to the amount of resistance to blood flow in the arteries, which is measured in millimeters of mercury in two ways: when your heart is beating and when your heart is resting between beats.
Systolic pressure (the first number listed in a blood pressure reading) measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart is beating.
Diastolic pressure (the second number listed in a blood pressure reading) measures the pressure in your arteries between heartbeats.
High blood pressure develops slowly over time and is related to many causes. Though it cannot be cured, it can be managed effectively through lifestyle changes and, when necessary, medication.
People with confirmed hypertension stage 1 can usually manage the condition with lifestyle changes.
But if you have hypertension stage 2, your provider will likely prescribe a combination of lifestyle changes and blood pressure medications.
In this article, we’ll cover some of the most effective lifestyle changes that can help you manage or prevent high blood pressure.
But keep in mind that a diagnosis of high blood pressure must be confirmed with a medical professional.
Below are some natural remedies for high blood pressure.
Evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that regular exercise can benefit heart health in a myriad of ways as well as prevent many heart conditions, including heart disease and stroke.
Evidence also shows that aerobic physical activity can help to lower blood pressure levels.
Examples of aerobic physical activity include:
Specifically, engaging in aerobic activity 3-4 times per week for at least 12 weeks for an average of 40 minutes per session can help to lower blood pressure levels in individuals with high blood pressure.
Change Your Diet
Changing your diet can have a significant impact on your cardiovascular health.
If you’re diagnosed with high blood pressure, your provider will likely make dietary recommendations that can help to benefit your blood pressure levels.
One specific dietary approach called DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is a long-term dietary pattern designed to help lower blood pressure without medication.
DASH emphasizes a diet high in plants, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, poultry, fish, and nuts and minimizes sweets, sodas, ultra-processed foods, and red meats.
Importantly, the DASH dietary pattern also recommends limiting sodium to between 1,500-2,300mg per day.
Best foods for high blood pressure
Some of the best foods for lowering high blood pressure include:
- Whole grains
- Low-fat dairy products
- Lean meats (including poultry and fish)
- Non-tropical vegetable oils
Foods to avoid with high blood pressure
Foods to avoid or limit if you have high blood pressure include:
- Sweets and candy
- Sugar-sweetened beverages (including sodas and certain energy and sweetened coffee drinks)
- Red meat
Cut Back on Salt (Sodium)
Americans eat an average of 3,400+ mg of sodium every day—far above what’s recommended for people with elevated or high blood pressure.
In general, reducing your salt intake can help to significantly lower your blood pressure.
On average, people who reduce their salt intake can decrease their systolic blood pressure by 2-7 points and diastolic blood pressure by 1-3 points.
However, reducing your salt intake can be more challenging than it seems, since most Americans don’t know how much salt they consume on a daily basis.
If you’re trying to reduce your salt intake, you can start by taking note of the sodium quantity listed on the Nutrition Facts label on packaged foods.
When purchasing packaged foods, you can also keep an eye out for these terms that indicated lower-sodium items:
- Salt/Sodium Free
- Very Low Sodium
- Low Sodium
- Reduced Sodium
- Light in Sodium
- Lightly Salted
When cooking at home, using these items and being conservative when adding salt and/or salty condiments and dressings to home-cooked foods can help to lower your overall sodium intake.
Maintain a Healthy Weight for Your Body
The body-mass index (BMI) is a simple calculation that uses an individual’s height and weight to generate a numerical indicator, often used as an indicator of healthy weight.
BMI can be helpful on a population level, but it is an unreliable indicator of individual health and ignores current understanding of body composition.
In fact, data used to build the BMI originally included only white, Western European men, and according to data collected in 2011, the BMI fails to accurately detect more than half of obesity cases in black, white, and Hispanic women.
Though medical experts have recognized the failings of BMI as a health indicator, it is still used to broadly categorize a person as underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese.
It’s important to note that these categories do not take the complexities of the human body into account, including body fat distribution, age, sex, genetics, lifestyle, and other metabolic and functional traits.
For these reasons, determining your healthy body weight isn’t always about fitting into a specific value or range within the BMI, but analyzing your height and weight within their physical and functional contexts with the help of your provider.
Research shows that maintaining a healthy weight for your body can help to control your blood pressure and lower your risk of other health problems.
If your provider recommends losing weight to help manage your high blood pressure, it’s important to ask them about healthy and sustainable weight loss strategies, since research shows that short-term and extreme weight loss strategies can be dangerous to your heart health and metabolism in the long-term.
Smoking can also reduce life expectancy and detrimentally affect your quality of life.
Unlike other lifestyle management strategies, stopping smoking is one of the few ways you can lower your blood pressure immediately. In fact, within 20 minutes of your last cigarette, your heart and blood pressure will drop.
Quitting smoking in the long-term will have an even bigger benefit on your blood pressure and heart health.
Get Enough Sleep
Getting adequate, quality sleep is essential to your overall health, including heart health and blood pressure. While we’re asleep, blood pressure naturally goes down.
Though sleep duration recommendations can vary from person-to-person, aiming to get between 7-9 hours of sleep each night may help to prevent high blood pressure and manage elevated blood pressure levels.
Though experts are still researching the association between stress and high blood pressure, stress, and especially chronic stress, can contribute to other risk factors that are known to increase the risk of high blood pressure, like excessive alcohol use and poor diet.
Finding effective ways to reduce and manage your stress (like mindfulness, meditation, or yoga) may help to reduce high blood pressure and can have a trickle-down effect that benefits your overall health.
Avoid Too Much Caffeine
Caffeine can cause a short but dramatic increase in blood pressure, especially in individuals with hypertension.
However, researchers are still unclear about the long-term effects of caffeine consumption on blood pressure levels.
If you’re unsure whether your caffeine habits are affecting your blood pressure, talk to your provider for guidance. But if you want to limit spikes in your blood pressure in the short-term, avoiding caffeine can help.
Drinking high-doses of alcohol can increase your blood pressure up to 13 hours after consumption.
But binge-drinking and alcoholism can affect your blood pressure in the long-term.
Heavy drinkers can slowly reduce their alcohol consumption to help lower their blood pressure.
But if you’ve already been diagnosed with high blood pressure, reducing or eliminating alcohol from your diet can help to manage your blood pressure levels.
Try Herbal Remedies
Some herbal remedies may help to manage blood pressure when used with other lifestyle changes.
Another meta-analysis analyzing the effects of tea drinking on blood pressure found that green tea may help to lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
One systematic review also found that beetroot juice may help to control blood pressure in healthy and pre-hypertensive individuals and in individuals diagnosed with high blood pressure who are already taking blood pressure medication.
Overall, it’s important to keep in mind that some of these herbal remedies may not be as effective at lowering your blood pressure as some of the other lifestyle changes mentioned.
Some supplements may also help to manage blood pressure, including magnesium and fish oil.
However, it’s important to note that the evidence behind taking supplements for lowering blood pressure is not conclusive.
For example, one review found that magnesium deficiency may be a risk factor for high blood pressure and that magnesium supplements may result in a small overall reduction in blood pressure (a mean of -0.6mmHg for systolic blood pressure and -0.8 mmHg for diastolic blood pressure).
But because the changes were so small, magnesium is not recommended for blood pressure treatment.
The same review found that fish oil may only lower blood pressure levels when employed in large doses, which may raise safety and side effect concerns.
Before starting any new supplement, be sure to consult your provider about any other medications you’re taking, since some supplements can interfere with how certain medications work.
Drink Plenty of Water
Drinking between 8-12 glasses of water per day can help to flush sodium out of the body.
If you have normal blood pressure levels, drinking between 8-10 8oz glasses of water per day can help to prevent hypertension.
But if you’ve already been diagnosed with hypertension, your provider may recommend drinking more water (up to 12 glasses) per day.
Get Regular Checkups
Getting regular checkups with your healthcare provider is a crucial component of managing high blood pressure, especially if you’re incorporating new lifestyle management techniques.
When To See a Healthcare Professional
If you have a family history of high blood pressure or have never had your blood pressure checked by a medical professional, it’s a good idea to speak to your provider.
Speaking with your healthcare provider regularly can also help manage your blood pressure after diagnosis.
How K Health Can Help
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Frequently Asked Questions
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Accuracy of current body mass index obesity classification for white, black and Hispanic reproductive-age women. (2011).
A Review of Nutritional Factors in Hypertension Management. (2013).
Dietary Nitrate from Beetroot Juice for Hypertension: A Systematic Review. (2018).
Did the American Medical Association make the correct decision classifying obesity as a disease? (2014).
Effect of alcohol on blood pressure (2020).
Effect of green tea consumption on blood pressure: A meta-analysis of 13 randomized controlled trials. (2014).
How Does Sleep Affect Your Heart Health? (2021).
How much sodium should I eat per day? (2021).
Ideal body weight of BMI: so, what’s it to be? (2016).
Managing Stress to Control High Blood Pressure. (2016).
New ACC/AHA High Blood Pressure Guidelines Lower Definition of Hypertension. (2017).
Persistent metabolic adaptation 6 years after The Biggest Loser competition. (2017).
The effect of coffee on blood pressure and cardiovascular disease in hypertensive individuals: a systematic review and meta-analysis. (2011).
The life-course impact of smoking on hypertension, myocardial infarction and respiratory diseases. (2017).
Relationship between Sleep and Hypertension: Findings from the NHANES (2007-2014). (2021).
Understanding Blood Pressure Readings. (n.d.).
Yo-yo dieting may increase women’s heart disease risk. (2019).