In the United States, 116 million people currently have high blood pressure, which is nearly half of the adults living here today. Besides medications, there are safe alternative methods to lower blood pressure.
High blood pressure can be deadly and should be reduced to prevent severe complications.
There are natural ways to decrease blood pressure by making positive lifestyle changes.
Not all high blood pressure cases can be treated with lifestyle changes; sometimes, there are non-modifiable causes.
What is high blood pressure?
High blood pressure (hypertension) is known as the “silent killer” because it does not always have symptoms and can cause severe complications such as stroke and even death. It is considered one of the leading causes of death in the United States.
Blood pressure is measured in a quality known as millimeters of mercury, abbreviated as mmHg. There are two numbers associated with this. The top number is known as systolic blood pressure, and the bottom number is known as diastolic blood pressure.
- Systolic blood pressure. This is the measurement of the pressure in the blood vessels when the heart is pumping blood.
- Diastolic blood pressure. This is the measurement of the pressure in the blood vessels when the heart is resting.
Normal blood pressure is around 120/80 mmHg to 130/80 mmHg.
High blood pressure is about 135/85 or higher and is classified in stages of degrees of severity.
|Mild hypertension||Blood pressure of 130/80 to 130/90 mmHg.|
|Moderate hypertension||Blood pressure of 140/90 mmHg or higher.|
|Severe hypertension||Blood pressure of 180/120 mmHg or higher and is considered an emergency.|
Lifestyle choices play a significant role in reducing blood pressure without medications. Controlling blood pressure through natural ways can reduce, delay, and even prevent the need for medication. Here's a list of the top eight suggestions:
- Eat a healthy diet. Eating a well-balanced healthy diet can also reduce high blood pressure. Diets rich in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, low-fat, and low in saturated fat and cholesterol can reduce blood pressure by up to 11 mmHg.
- Exercise. Regular exercise can help to decrease blood pressure by around 5 to 8 mmHg. Thirty minutes of moderate exercise every day can keep blood pressure that is mildly or moderately high from becoming high. Blood pressure that is already high can be reduced with regular exercise.
- Lose weight. Being overweight can increase blood pressure. In general, blood pressure is reduced by 1 mmHg for every 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) lost weight. Obesity can cause sleep apnea, which causes you to stop breathing while sleeping periodically and increases blood pressure.
- Reduce salt intake. Salt (sodium) increases blood pressure and causes water retention. While sodium is a necessary part of a healthy diet, it should be limited to less than 2,300 mg daily. If your blood pressure is already high, reducing sodium intake to 1,500 mg a day or less is recommended. Reducing salt intake can lower blood pressure by 5 to 6 mmHg. Sodium is not just table salt. It can be found in processed foods, frozen foods, and canned foods. It is essential to read the label of food packages for sodium levels to prevent overconsumption.
- Quit smoking. Smoking causes a multitude of health problems, one of which is increased blood pressure. Not only can quitting smoking reduce your blood pressure, it can also reduce your risk of heart disease and improve your overall health.
- Limit alcohol use. Excessive alcohol intake can cause blood pressure to increase. Limiting alcohol intake to only one drink a day can, for regular users, decrease blood pressure by around 4 mmHg.
- Reduce stress. Long-term stress can cause high blood pressure and negatively affect your overall health. Avoid unnecessary stressors if possible, and make time for self-care to help improve blood pressure. While not all stress is avoidable, it is important to focus on the things you can change and make plans to solve them.
- Sleep well. Maintaining good sleep hygiene can also reduce high blood pressure. Recent studies show that people who get less than six hours of sleep are at risk for developing high blood pressure. To improve sleep habits, stick to a sleep schedule, limit screen time an hour before sleeping, and create a restful place to sleep.
Does this mean I won’t need medication?
It is important to note that only some people's blood pressure can be treated by working on modifiable changes. Several causes of high blood pressure are considered non-modifiable, meaning they can not be changed.
Non-modifiable risk factors for high blood pressure include:
- Family history
- Heart disease
Monitoring blood pressure at home can help you to keep track of how well you are controlling it by yourself. Most local drug stores will carry a blood pressure monitor device, like wrist blood pressure monitors, to purchase.
Keep a journal of what you are doing to decrease your blood pressure and keep track of your levels. If lifestyle changes can no longer maintain your blood pressure, you may have to see a doctor and be placed on medication.
When to see a doctor
Most of the time, high blood pressure does not have any symptoms. If you check your blood pressure regularly, and if it is 140 or above, you should see a physician.
If high blood pressure is left untreated, it can cause heart disease, stroke, death, and other complications.
You should see your doctor if your lifestyle changes are not reducing your high blood pressure.
If you develop symptoms of fatigue, headaches, nausea, lightheadedness, or heart palpitations, then you should seek out a physician to monitor your blood pressure. These symptoms may indicate other cardiovascular problems that may be leading to cause high blood pressure.
If your blood pressure is 180 or above, and you experience any negative symptoms, you may be in a hypertensive crisis and should seek medication attention immediately.
- CDC. Facts About Hypertension.
- American Heart Association. Effect of Sleep Disturbances on Blood Pressure.
- Harvard Health Publishing. Pill-free ways to lower high blood pressure.
- Cleveland Clinic. High Blood Pressure (Hypertension).
- WebMD. When to Call Your Doctor About High Blood Pressure.