How to Lower Blood Pressure? - 9 Key Ways to Lower Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, has been termed the “silent killer,” as it often has no symptoms, but is a major risk for heart disease and stroke—which are among the leading causes of death in the United States.
Blood pressure is the pressure of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries. Arteries carry blood from your heart to other parts of your body. Blood pressure normally rises and falls throughout the day, but it can damage your heart and cause health problems if it stays high for a long time. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is blood pressure that is higher than normal. According to the CDC, about one in three U.S. adults has high blood pressure.
Your blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury, which is abbreviated as mm Hg. There are two numbers involved in the measurement:
- Systolic blood pressure. The top number represents the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats.
- Diastolic blood pressure. The bottom number represents the pressure in your blood vessels between beats when your heart is resting.
Blood pressure lower than 120/80 mm Hg is considered normal. Blood pressure that’s 130/80 mm Hg or more is considered high. If your numbers are above normal but under 130/80 mm Hg, you fall into the category of elevated blood pressure. This means that you’re at risk for developing high blood pressure.
Your blood pressure depends on how much blood your heart is pumping, and how much resistance there is to blood flow in your arteries. The narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure. The good news is that it is possible to significantly reduce your numbers and lower your risk of high blood pressure through dietary and lifestyle changes.
Here are 9 key ways to lower blood pressure naturally:
1. Increase the Amount of Exercise and Physical Activity
Exercise and physical activity are one of the best ways to keep your blood pressure low. In a 2013 study, sedentary older adults who participated in aerobic exercise training experienced lower systolic blood pressure by an average of 3.9 percent and lower diastolic blood pressure by an average of 4.5 percent. These results are as good as some blood pressure medications.
As you regularly increase your heart and breathing rates, over time your heart gets stronger and pumps with less effort. This puts less pressure on your arteries and lowers your blood pressure.
How much activity should you strive for? A 2013 report by the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the American Heart Association (AHA) advises moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity for 40-minute sessions, three to four times per week. If finding 40 minutes at a time is a challenge, there may still be benefits when the time is divided into three or four 10- to 15-minute segments throughout the day.
2. Cut Back on Sugar and Refined Carbs
Many scientific studies show that restricting sugar and refined carbohydrates can help you lose weight and lower your blood pressure. A 2010 study compared a low-carb diet to a low-fat diet. The low-fat diet included a diet drug. Both diets produced weight loss, but the low-carb diet was much more effective in lowering blood pressure.
The low-carb diet lowered blood pressure by 4.5 mm Hg diastolic and 5.9 mm Hg systolic. The diet of low-fat plus the diet drug lowered blood pressure by only 0.4 mm Hg diastolic and 1.5 mm Hg systolic. A 2012 analysis of low-carb diets and heart disease risk found that these diets lowered blood pressure by an average of 3.10 mm Hg diastolic and 4.81 mm Hg systolic.
3. Lose Weight if You are Overweight
If you’re overweight, losing even 5 to 10 pounds can reduce your blood pressure. Plus, you’ll lower your risk for other medical problems.
A 2016 review of several studies reported that weight loss diets reduced blood pressure by an average of 3.2 mm Hg diastolic and 4.5 mm Hg systolic.
4. Eat More Potassium and Less Sodium
Increasing your potassium intake and cutting back on salt can also lower your blood pressure. Potassium lessens the effects of salt in your system and also eases tension in your blood vessels. However, diets rich in potassium may be harmful to individuals with kidney disease, so talk to your doctor before increasing your potassium intake.
There are many foods that are naturally high in potassium:
- fruits, such as bananas, apricots, avocadoes, and oranges.
- vegetables, such as tomatoes, potatoes, yams, greens, and spinach
- low-fat dairy foods, such as milk and yogurt
5. Hawthorn Berries
Hawthorn (Crataegus species) has been used to treat heart disease as far back as the 1st century. By the early 1800s, American doctors were using it to treat circulatory disorders and respiratory illnesses. Traditionally, the berries were used to treat heart problems ranging from irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, chest pain, hardening of the arteries, and heart failure. Today, the leaves and flowers are also used medicinally. There is even research to suggest that hawthorn might be effective when used in the treatment of mild-to-moderate heart failure.
Hawthorn is used to help protect against heart disease and help control high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Both animal and human studies suggest hawthorn increases coronary artery blood flow, improves circulation, and lowers blood pressure.
6. Black Cumin Seeds
Black cumin seed (Nigella sativa) is another great herb for lowering blood pressure that grows in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and western Asia. Taking black cumin seed extract for two months has been shown to reduce high blood pressure in people whose blood pressure is mildly elevated.
Taking black cumin seed oil has also been shown to reduce high cholesterol. It’s high in healthy fatty acids that can help you maintain healthier cholesterol levels. Examples of these fatty acids include linoleic acids and oleic acid. The levels of the oils can vary depending on where the black seeds are grown.
7. Celery Seeds
In Ayurvedic medicine, celery seeds (Apium graveolens) are famous for their effect on cardiovascular health—including their ability to help regulate blood pressure. As a natural diuretic, celery seeds may benefit people with high blood pressure by speeding up salt excretion.
High levels of salt in the blood can cause fluid buildup in the blood vessels, causing high blood pressure. Celery seeds are a natural and safer alternative to artificial diuretics or water pills that are usually prescribed by conventional physicians.
Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) may also be helpful for people with high blood pressure. In one study, researchers gave three grams of cardamom powder a day to 20 adults who were newly diagnosed with high blood pressure. After 12 weeks, blood pressure levels had significantly decreased to the normal range.
The promising results of this study may be related to the high levels of antioxidants in cardamom. In fact, the participants’ antioxidant status had increased by 90% by the end of the study. Antioxidants have been linked to lower blood pressure, so consuming more antioxidant-rich foods can be an essential way to help regulate blood pressure.
Cardamom also has a diuretic effect, meaning it can promote urination to remove water that builds up in your body, for example around your heart. Cardamom extract has been shown to increase urination and decrease blood pressure in rats.
Garlic (Allium sativum) is also beneficial for lowering blood pressure and is easy to incorporate into one’s diet. According to one study, people with high blood pressure who took garlic supplements daily for up to five months saw their blood pressure levels drop significantly. In some cases, the drop was as much as that seen in patients taking drugs such as beta blockers and ACE inhibitors.
Blood pressure is the pressure of circulating blood against the walls of blood vessels. Most of this pressure results from the heart pumping blood through the circulatory system. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a condition in which the force of the blood against the artery walls is too high. This can pose a serious risk to one’s health, and can even contribute to major illnesses like heart disease and stroke.
Blood pressure can be regulated with proper dietary and lifestyle practices. Exercise and physical activity are crucial to regulating blood pressure, as are certain dietary factors like cutting back on sugar, refined carbs and salt, and including more potassium and antioxidant-rich foods in your diet. There are also many wonderful herbs that help to improve circulation and heart health, as well as lower blood pressure.