Science-Backed Natural Ways to Lower Blood Pressure

One in three American adults has high blood pressure. High blood pressure occurs when the vessels that carry blood are put under more pressure than they should be. This makes the heart work harder and adds persistent wear and tear to blood vessels-putting those with hypertension (the medical term for blood pressure that's 140/90 and above) at risk for serious health problems, such as heart attacks, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and cognitive issues.

What Is High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure can be caused by a number of different factors, but ultimately results from the accumulation of arterial plaques that accumulate inside of both large (macrovascular) and small (microvascular) blood vessels.

These arterial plaques restrict blood flow throughout your cardiovascular system. They create a resistance to blood flow that forces your heart to beat harder to effectively pump blood througout your vasculature. 

This causes an increase in blood pressure, which can eventually damage blood vessels throughout your body, increasing your risk for cardiac events like a heart attack, heart failure, or damage to peripheral organs like your kidneys.

How Do I Tell If I Have High Blood Pressure?

Almost any visit to the doctor will include having your blood pressure taken, which involves a cuff wrapped around your arm that measures the pressure at which blood is moving through your body.

Blood pressure is measured in two numbers, which mark the upper (systolic) and lower (diastolic) ranges of your blood pressure as your heart beats. If these blood pressure values (which are measured in mm/hg) are too high, you are considered hypertensive. 

A blood pressure beneath 120/80 is considered to be healthy, with hypertension starting at 130/90. If your blood pressure rises higher than 140/90, there is cause for concern, with hypertensive crises categorized when blood pressure rises over 180/120.

Quit Smoking to Reduce High Blood Pressure

If you’re living with consistently high blood pressure and are a regular smoker, the research is clear: quitting smoking lowers your blood pressure, and has positive effects on your blood vessels, overall heart health, and risk of chronic diseases.

However, we know that this advice is much easier said than done. Talk to your doctor if you’re interested in quitting, as they can help provide some medical guidance and point you to some support on how to kick the habit.

The DASH Diet to Control High Blood Pressure

DASH stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension”, and is an eating plan carefully tailored to help lower high blood pressure.

As the first step in a transition to an overall healthy diet, DASH focuses on integrating more whole grains, low-fat dairy, and plants into your diet, along with limiting your sodium intake. 

For a diet that gives you the best chance at long-term health, we recommend a low-fat, plant-based, whole-food diet like recommended by our friends at Mastering Diabetes

The evidence has shown that each of these components — reducing sodium, eating more plants, and cutting down on meats and dairy — individually helped lower blood pressure. Moreover, studies also found a reduced all-cause mortality rate in people who adhered to the diet

If you’re looking for guidance in switching to this diet, we highly recommend the coaching program over at Mastering Diabetes.

Foods to Reduce High Blood Pressure

As we mentioned above, the data proves that a healthy diet can have a major effect on high blood pressure. And though DASH is a good recommendation, the principles of healthy eating for high blood pressure can also be applied to several other diets. Here are a few to keep in mind.

Reduce Your Sodium Intake

The American Heart Association recommends a salt intake of no more than 1500mg per day, with 2300mg of sodium as the absolute upper limit (which is actually less than a teaspoon of salt). 

Unfortunately, many packaged or processed foods have very high levels of sodium that can themselves exceed these limits which is why it’s important to check food labels when buying these products. 

If you have consistently high blood pressure, a low-sodium diet (around 1000mg per day) has shown positive results in bringing your levels back towards normal.

Eat Potassium-Rich Foods

Potassium and sodium are both crucial nutrients when it comes to keeping your blood pressure at a balanced level. In fact, research shows that an increased intake of sodium without sufficient potassium can contribute to increased blood pressure

You can combat this by adding potassium-rich foods to your diet, especially leafy greens, bananas, and avocados (as an occasional treat due to their high fat content).

Enjoy Dark Chocolate on Occasion

Another food that may help lower blood pressure is dark chocolate, which isn’t just because of the pleasure you can derive from this tasty treat. In fact, there are two compounds of interest found in dark chocolate — stearic acid and flavonoids — that have both been shown to make beneficial impacts on blood pressure.

However, when selecting chocolate for a heart-healthy treat always make sure to check the ingredients. Most chocolates and chocolate candies are packed with sugars that will increase your blood pressure. 

A good rule of thumb is - the darker and more pure the chocolate, the better.

Reduce Alcohol Intake

Alcohol has proven to have both an immediate and long-term effect on your blood pressure, causing a brief spike in the hours after drinking as well as long-term increases in blood pressure when you binge drink repeatedly.

Most doctors will recommend cutting down or eliminating alcohol completely if you are suffering from chronically high blood pressure. The American Heart Association lists safe levels as 1 drink a day for women and 2 drinks a day for men.

Limit Coffee and Caffeine Intake

Caffeine causes a spike in blood pressure immediately after consumption. Though the research is still unclear on whether or not caffeine causes long-term high blood pressure, it’s definitely smart to cut back and avoid coffee and caffeine if you’re suffering from hypertension.

Herbs and Natural Supplements for High Blood Pressure

Does Garlic Lower Your Blood Pressure?

The studies have shown that yes, garlic can help lower your blood pressure, especially if you’re currently living with hypertension. In fact, some studies have argued that garlic supplements taken daily have an effect similar to some blood pressure medications.

Ginger

Though not as strong as the data on garlic (above), there are indications that ginger can also help lower your blood pressure. In clinical trials almost all subjects experienced a drop in blood pressure, and in some animal trials ginger was shown to universally increase circulation.

An area of promise, certainly, and with little to no negative side effects, there’s little reason not to enjoy ginger in your diet!

Omega 3

The research has shown that omega 3 supplements have a positive effect on your blood pressure, without increasing your cholesterol and lipid profile as much as many other fatty acids.

This effect has been particularly pronounced in one study on individuals with type 2 diabetes, which speaks to the supplement’s potential as a natural treatment to hypertension.

Consider Amla (Indian Gooseberries)

Amla, or Indian gooseberries, are one of the most powerful plant-based medicines ever discovered, with health benefits that include lowered blood glucose, better immunity, hair growth, and many more, with little-to-no side effects.

And among these impressive medicinal uses, amla has been shown to support reduced blood pressure at levels comparable to leading medications, along with drastically improving overall cardiovascular health

That’s why we’ve created Amla Green, to bring organic, concentrated, and delicious amla powder right to your door. You can learn more about Amla Green and its benefits here.

Regular Exercise to Reduce High Blood Pressure

The health benefits of physical activity are well-documented and extensive, improving your mood, energy levels, cardiovascular health, and many more areas of your overall health.

And when it comes to high blood pressure, exercise is a particularly excellent tool for treatment, leaving blood pressure lowered for hours after aerobic exercise

There are multiple reasons for this: frequent heightened blood flow from exercise helps clear up plaques, exercise burns the fats and leftover compounds that can cause them, and exercise also stimulates your muscles to use energy more effectively.

There has been extensive research done that shows aerobic exercise and dynamic resistance exercises are effective treatments for hypertension. Additional research is being conducted to understand the safety of isometric exercises for individuals with hypertension.

Weight Loss to Reduce High Blood Pressure

There are many different factors that come into play to cause high blood pressure, but being overweight is certainly a strong risk for hypertension

This is why weight loss is a valuable tool in controlling high blood pressure. Through regular physical activity, a healthy diet, and other strategies like intermittent fasting, it’s possible to drastically reduce hypertension and the ensuing health risks.

Moreover, reducing excess weight is a generally good idea for your overall health.

Manage Stress to Control High Blood Pressure

Stress is an area of blood pressure control that is easy to understand, but hard to quantify. Though there is extensive research that suggests a strong link between a high-stress lifestyle and hypertension, the impact of these psychological factors is difficult to measure.

Stress can manifest in different ways for different people. That’s why it has proven challenging to make definitive conclusions about the exact mechanism through which stress impacts blood pressure.

What can be said confidently is that consciously managing stress in your life is a good thing, both for your mental and physical health. Everyone has a different capacity for stress, and different activities that help relieve stress, so our recommendation is to find what combination of practices, habits, and activities works best for you.

How to Reduce High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy

According to the American Heart Association, about 10% of pregnancies are complicated by high blood pressure issues. Pregnancy complications driven by high blood pressure are far more common than complications driven by low blood pressure. 

These complications can happen because of a variety of different factors, but are more likely as a result of age, obesity, underlying health problems, and existing hypertension. 

High blood pressure during pregnancy often manifests around 20 weeks and can lead to a number of different health issues both for you and your baby. Most importantly, these issues often produce no symptoms, so it is extremely important to ensure that you get proper health care and regular check-ups if you are pregnant. 

Working with your doctor, you’ll best be able to identify a healthy lifestyle that works for you and your baby’s health during pregnancy. By sticking to a healthy diet and integrating low-impact physical activity, you can help keep your blood pressure low and ensure a healthy pregnancy.

How to Reduce Blood Pressure Quickly

If you’ve been suffering from consistently high blood pressure, it’s important to be aware that you are at an increased risk for a hypertensive crisis, which can lead to organ damage and heart attack. If not dealt with quickly, these crises can even be fatal, so it’s also important to know the warnings signs, which include:

  • Severe chest pain
  • Severe headache, accompanied by confusion and blurred vision
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Severe anxiety
  • Shortness of breath
  • Seizures
  • Unresponsiveness

Doctors advise seeking immediate medical attention if you notice these symptoms, and there are several strategies that you can implement to help lower your blood pressure until you can reach the hospital or medication. 

Though a hypertensive crisis can be stressful, deep and steady breathing is one of the best ways to lower blood pressure. Alternate-nostril breathing has been shown to be one of the most effective techniques, but ultimately any form of breathing control helps lower your heart rate and reduce your blood pressure to avoid long term damage.

Outside of the Emergency

If you’re looking for the quickest way to lower your blood pressure for good, the answer is to combine as many of the above techniques as possible. Cutting back on some unhealthy habits like smoking and drinking is a good start, and many others have snowball effects

Adjusting your diet to reduce sodium, increase potassium and omega 3s, integrate supplements like amla, and lose weight can all send your blood pressure in the right direction. Exercise improves your heart and overall health, and has the added benefit of reducing stress and improving your mood.

Though there is some genetic component of hypertension, the vast majority of these issues are entirely within your control. And though we know these steps are easier said than done, each of us has the ability to overcome high blood pressure and become healthier overall.


That's scary enough. But worse yet, high blood pressure can be a silent killer, as it may not be accompanied by any signs or symptoms. And even when people are aware, research from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggests that only about half of those diagnosed with hypertension have it under control.

But why is that, since there are natural ways to lower blood pressure through diet and exercise? "Part of the problem is that people aren't being screened for high blood pressure-and those who are often don't realize that they can control high blood pressure-or even where to start," says Cordialis Msora-Kasago, R.D.N., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

So begin here. Take back your health with these research-approved ways to tame high blood pressure.

1. Be Active

Women walking

Work your heart to make it stronger. With regular exercise, the heart is able to pump more blood with each beat, which lowers your heart rate. Exercise also boosts your body's overall efficiency, which means the heart doesn't have to work as hard to get oxygen and nutrients to all your tissues. This has many benefits: research shows that being physically active lowers blood pressure and prevents those within the normal or prehypertensive range (blood pressure between 120/80 and 139/89) from putting themselves at risk.

In some, exercise works to lower blood pressure even when medications cannot. According to a study published in Hypertension, 50 patients with resistant hypertension (defined as high blood pressure that doesn't respond to taking three or more types of medication designed to lower blood pressure) who walked on a treadmill at a 3 percent grade three times a week for eight weeks were able to lower their systolic blood pressure (the number on the top of a blood-pressure reading) by 6 mm Hg (a measure of pressure). Additionally, they lowered their diastolic blood pressure (the number on the bottom) by 3 mm Hg.

How much exercise is enough? Experts recommend being active for at least 30 minutes each day on most days of the week-but if you can find more time to move, the benefits to your heart increase. For example, a 2017 review in Hypertension found that for every 150 minutes that participants exercised per week, their risk of having high blood pressure went down by 6 percent. So if you can move more, do it!

While aerobic exercise (e.g., walking, running or riding a bike) is a tried-and-true form of exercise, any activity that gets your heart rate up is beneficial. For example, a review published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that resistance exercise-such as lifting weights-lowered diastolic blood pressure more than aerobic-style workouts. And feel free to think outside the box: one study in hypertensive women over the age of 70 found that gardening twice a week for 50 minutes was enough to help lower their average blood pressure. The best type of activity to do is the activity you know you'll stick with-whether that's running, gardening or something else entirely.

2. Pattern Your Diet after DASH

The Rules of the Whole Food Challenge

No one food is the cure for or the cause of hypertension. But research has consistently shown that-after exercise-sticking to healthful eating patterns can help to curb blood pressure.

Most research points toward the DASH diet as an eating pattern worth following for heart health. The DASH diet emphasizes fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, fish, poultry and low-fat dairy-and limits red meats, processed foods, sugary drinks and alcohol. Since the original DASH diet study was published in 1997, clinical trials have found the DASH diet to be most effective at lowering systolic and diastolic pressure (by an average of 7.6 mm Hg and 4.2 mm Hg respectively), according to a 2016 review in Hypertension.

Why does it work so well? The DASH diet contains more nutrients that may help lower blood pressure than the typical American diet, such as potassium, magnesium, calcium and dietary fiber. And it naturally lowers sodium intake-a mineral thought to increase fluid retention and inflammation-by limiting packaged foods like chips and processed meats. Plus, some research suggests that following the DASH diet helps with weight loss, another benefit that may help control blood pressure.

The DASH diet is based on a 1,600- to 2,600-calorie day. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics describes it as the following: 7 to 12 servings of fruits and vegetables, 6 to 11 servings of grains (e.g., whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, brown rice); 2 to 3 servings of low-fat dairy products; 6 or fewer servings per day of lean meat, poultry and fish; 2 to 3 servings per day of fats and oils (avoid trans fats and limit saturated fat); 3 to 5 servings per week of nuts, seeds and legumes.

This amount of produce is way above the norm-more than half of Americans do not even eat their recommended 2 cups of fruit and 2-3 cups of vegetables daily-so it can be tough making the switch. (Studies have estimated that only about 20 percent of people with hypertension comply with the DASH diet after being advised to follow it.) But that doesn't mean it's impossible. What matters most is making incremental changes you can stick to. Learning how to flavor foods without salt can really help. "The DASH diet is blander than we're used to," notes Msora-Kasago, "but using spices and garlic can really add a lot of flavor."

3. Get Your Zen On

Yoga

Being under pressure may contribute to hypertension. Stressful situations cause the release of hormones that increase your heart rate and make your blood vessels narrow-a lose-lose for those concerned about their numbers. The long-term effects of constantly being under fire are yet to be determined, but there's some research to suggest that taking steps to reduce stress is beneficial. For example, a 2017 review found that practicing qi gong, which involves breathing exercises, gentle movement and meditation, was just as effective as traditional exercise or yoga in reducing blood pressure.

Plus, logging enough sleep per night may help lower both stress and blood pressure. What's enough? At least six hours of sleep a night. Getting less than that may increase your risk of having hypertension by 17 percent, according to a 2017 review in Sleep Medicine.

Bottom Line

There are natural, effective ways to lower blood pressure-but there is no one-size-fits-all approach. The first step is to have your blood pressure routinely checked. Then, find a routine that is sustainable and enjoyable for you-and has your doctor's stamp of approval.

Dr Rohit Bhaskar, Physio
Dr Rohit Bhaskar, Physio Dr. Rohit Bhaskar, Physio is Founder of Bhaskar Health and Physiotherapy and is also a consulting physiotherapist. He completed his Graduation in Physiotherapy from Uttar Pradesh University of Medical Sciences. His clinical interests are in Chest Physiotherapy, stroke rehab, parkinson’s and head injury rehab. Bhaskar Health is dedicated to readers, doctors, physiotherapists, nurses, paramedics, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals. Bhaskar Health audience is the reason I feel so passionate about this project, so thanks for reading and sharing Bhaskar Health.

Post a Comment

Listen to this article

Subscribe

* indicates required