Table of Contents
- Best Ways to Lower High Blood Pressure
- How Long Does it Take to Reduce High Blood Pressure?
- How to Lower Blood Pressure Without Medication
- How Forward can Help You Make Healthy Lifestyle Changes
If your doctor has diagnosed you with high blood pressure, it’s normal to wish to avoid prescription medications. Adding one or more blood pressure meds to your daily routine can complicate life, increase your medical expenses and potentially lead to side effects. As a result, many people wonder how to lower high blood pressure fast and naturally.
Lifestyle changes can make a big difference in blood pressure levels. However, many people require both blood pressure medications and lifestyle changes to manage hypertension. This guide introduces you to the things you can do to improve your blood pressure, but you may still need to take medication, even if you make all of the recommended changes.
Best Ways to Lower High Blood Pressure
The best ways to lower high blood pressure are through healthy lifestyle changes. If your blood pressure levels are only slightly elevated or in Stage 1 hypertension (between 120/80 mm Hg and 139/89 mm Hg) — and you have no other risk factors for heart disease and stroke — your doctor may wait to see if lifestyle changes are enough to lower your blood pressure.
People with higher blood pressure levels or a risk for heart disease and stroke are likely to need medication right away when diagnosed with hypertension. If you fall into one or both of these categories, lifestyle changes can complement your medications to lower your blood pressure.
What you eat has a major impact on your blood pressure. Sodium is one of the primary dietary contributors to high blood pressure. When you consume too much sodium in the form of salt, your body retains water. For some people, this leads to a higher blood pressure.
The American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health recommend the DASH diet for high blood pressure. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. To follow the dash diet, eat:
- 7 to 8 daily servings of whole grains and grain products
- 4 to 5 daily servings of vegetables
- 4 to 5 daily servings of fruit
- 2 to 3 servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy products
- 2 or fewer servings of lean meat, poultry and fish
- 2 to 3 daily servings of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats
Also, eat 4 to 5 servings of nuts, seeds and dry beans weekly. The DASH plan also involves:
- Limiting sweets to 5 servings per week
- Cutting down on red meat
- Reducing sodium intake
- Limiting trans and saturated fats
Keep in mind that portion control matters when following the DASH diet. The actual serving size of a food may be significantly less than the amount you’re used to eating. For example, one serving of chicken is four ounces, which is about the size of a deck of cards.
Increasing your level of physical activity can help manage blood pressure. The benefits of exercise for high blood pressure include a stronger heart, which pumps blood with less strain, reducing the force that blood exerts on the arteries. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise, which makes your heart and lungs work harder.
Some examples of moderate-intensity aerobic activity include:
- Brisk walking
- Water aerobics
- Cycling on flat or moderately hilly ground
- Pushing a lawn mower
- Doubles tennis
High-intensity exercises include activities like:
- Swimming laps
- Singles tennis
Before starting any new exercise plan, talk to your primary care provider about whether the activity or activities is a safe choice for you.
Being overweight or obese increases your risk of high blood pressure, heart attack and heart disease. Following a healthy diet and getting regular exercise can help you lose weight. Losing just 10-pounds can lower your blood pressure. Talk to your primary care provider about a healthy goal weight, and strive to lose just 1 to 2 pounds per week.
Chronic stress is an important risk factor for hypertension. During times of stress, your body releases chemical messenger hormones that increase your heart rate and cause your blood vessels to narrow. These two effects can raise blood pressure. While you may not be able to eliminate stress from your life entirely, you can reduce its effects by:
- Keeping free time for relaxation in your daily schedule
- Taking deep breaths when stress mounts
- Doing a hobby that you enjoy
- Spending time with friends and families
- Setting realistic work and relationship goals
- Talking to a therapist or counselor
- Sharing your feelings and thoughts with someone you trust like your partner or a family member
- Trying relaxation techniques like meditation and yoga
Consider starting a stress journal. Whenever you feel tension rise, record what’s happening and how you’re experiencing the feelings of stress in your body. Over time, you may identify activities, situations or individuals that increase your stress levels, and you can work out a plan to respond to these triggers in healthier ways.
Quitting smoking can lower your blood pressure, and it improves your overall health. Nicotine in cigarettes causes blood vessels to immediately constrict, increasing blood pressure. Within 20 to 30 minutes of your last cigarette, your heart rate and blood pressure decrease.
Giving up smoking is difficult, but there is help available. Talk to your doctor about prescription medications and over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapy products to help you quit. The CDC also offers the quitSTART app to give you motivation and support for quitting.
Alcohol causes the release of the hormone renin, which causes blood vessels to constrict. If you drink alcohol in excess, this effect can contribute to hypertension. For blood pressure control, women should drink no more than one alcoholic beverage per day, while men should stop at two daily alcoholic beverages. In general, the less alcohol the better. One beverage is equal to:
- 12 oz. of beer
- 5 oz. of wine
- 1.5 oz. of liquor
Following these guidelines may lower blood pressure by as much as 4 mmHg. Cutting back on alcohol also reduces your daily calorie intake and may help you lose weight.
How Long Does it Take to Reduce High Blood Pressure?
Some lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, can cause a quick decrease in blood pressure levels. However, lowering high blood pressure into a normal range is likely to take weeks or months. How long it will take for you depends on how high your blood pressure was, your overall health and your lifestyle. Your doctor can help you set realistic goals for blood pressure treatment outcomes.
How to Lower Blood Pressure Without Medication
For people with elevated or Stage 1 hypertension, it may be possible to lower blood pressure without medication, but medication is usually necessary to manage higher blood pressure. Talk to your health care provider about whether you’re a candidate for trying to lower your blood pressure without medication.
Is Natural Treatment for High Blood Pressure Effective?
The lifestyle changes discussed above are proven to make a difference in blood pressure levels. Still, many people need to combine lifestyle changes with medication to lower their blood pressure levels to normal range.
Some natural home remedies for high blood pressure may produce positive results for some individuals, but there is no evidence to prove that any natural remedy is more effective than medication — or effective for everyone who tries one.
Vitamins & Supplements for High Blood Pressure
Your body requires vitamins and minerals to function properly. Some nutrients play a role in blood pressure regulation and heart health in the body, including:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
Generally, the best way to get these nutrients is by eating foods that contain them. However, your doctor may recommend supplements if you struggle to eat a well-balanced diet. Talk to your doctor before you start taking a supplement.
Acupuncture for High Blood Pressure
Acupuncture is a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) remedy that involves inserting thin needles into the skin along pressure points. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) classifies acupuncture as potentially beneficial for managing pain but does not recommend it for high blood pressure. A study conducted in China found that acupuncture may lower blood pressure levels slightly for one to 24 hours after treatment, but it’s not an effective long-term treatment for hypertension.
How Forward can Help You Make Healthy Lifestyle Changes
Lowering your blood pressure is a matter of making healthier choices, which also improve other areas of your life. Our 12-week, doctor-led Heart Healthy Program starts with a detailed analysis of blood work and a discussion about your individual risk for heart attack and heart disease to help you understand why lifestyle changes are necessary. We optimize your diet and exercise plan to fit your lifestyle and your health needs to simplify change. Then, we act as your primary care provider by offering ongoing support and biometric monitoring to track your progress toward your health goals.