13 Effective Ways to Lower Your Blood Pressure

If you deal with hypertension, you can help lower your blood pressure with lifestyle changes related to diet, exercise, and stress management.

Blood pressure measures how forceful your heart pumps blood throughout your body. If your blood pressure is elevated, your heart is working extra hard to pump that blood, putting you at risk of heart disease and stroke. High blood pressure, known as hypertension, affects nearly half of the adults in the U.S.

What is High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure means you have a systolic pressure of 130 and over (the top number related to pressure on the heart) and/or a diastolic pressure 80 and over (the bottom number related to pressure in the arteries).

An example of a high blood pressure measurement would be 130/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).  

Here are some things that can help lower blood pressure, in addition to taking blood pressure medication and checking your blood pressure with a blood pressure monitor.

A person using a blood pressure monitor at home

Kinga Krzeminska / Getty Images

Get More Exercise

Regular exercise strengthens your heart so it doesn't strain to pump blood through your body and can lower your blood pressure. In addition, studies show people who follow cardio and resistance training programs could significantly lower their elevated blood pressure.

For optimum heart health, the American College of Cardiology, and the American Heart Association (AHA) recommend 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (like brisk walking) or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise (like heavy lifting or running) per week.

Decrease Sodium in Your Diet

Consuming too much sodium can cause you to retain fluid, which can increase your blood pressure. The AHA recommends consuming no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium daily, and no less than 1,500 to keep your blood pressure in check. Table salt is the most common source of dietary sodium. One teaspoon of salt contains 2,300 milligrams of sodium.

Checking nutrition labels can help you avoid extra salt that can sneak into your diet. For example, processed foods like deli meat, chips, and canned soup are typically high in sodium. Foods that are considered low in sodium have 5% or less of the daily value (DV), while foods that contain 20% or more are considered high.

Not everyone will get high blood pressure from consuming high-sodium diets. Some people are more sensitive to sodium. People who are not as sensitive to sodium can often urinate any extra sodium without retaining fluid or developing high blood pressure.

Eat More Potassium 

Increasing your intake of potassium can also help lower your blood pressure. This essential mineral helps relax blood vessels and process sodium out of your body faster. Adults with or without high blood pressure should aim for 2,600-3,400 milligrams (mg) of potassium daily.

Foods rich in potassium include:

  • Dried apricots (755 mg per ½ cup)
  • Cooked lentils (731 mg per 1 cup)
  • Cooked acorn squash (644 mg per 1 cup)
  • Medium-sized baked potato (610 mg)
  • Canned kidney beans (607 mg per 1 cup)
  • Medium-sized banana (422 mg)
  • Raw spinach (334 mg per 2 cups)

Your healthcare provider may also suggest following the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet to lower blood pressure. This diet limits sodium to 1,500 mg a day and focuses on getting 4,700 mg of potassium by eating whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and low-fat meat and dairy. 

Reduce Sugar and Carbohydrates

Limiting sugar and refined carbohydrates (carbs stripped of fiber, minerals, and vitamins) can help lower blood pressure over time. A 2014 review found that diets high in sugar can increase blood pressure more than salt. Another 2020 study found that people who were overweight or had obesity lowered their blood pressure after following low-carb and low-fat diets for six months.

Low-carb diets limit carbs to 130 grams (g) per day, including carbs in starchy vegetables, high-sugar fruits, bread, pasta, and sugary foods. In addition, AHA recommends that men limit sugar to 9 teaspoons (36 g) and women limit sugar to 6 teaspoons (25 g) daily. For reference, a 12-ounce soda contains nearly 8 teaspoons (32 g) of added sugar.

Reduce Stress

Stress is linked to high blood pressure. However, research shows that stress-reducing activities like yoga and meditation may help people lower their blood pressure. A 2013 review found that people who did yoga decreased their diastolic and systolic blood pressure more than those who didn't exercise. However, the yoga included breathing control, yoga postures, and meditation.

Another 2012 review found transcendental meditation and mindfulness-based stress reduction helped slightly reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure in people who were taking and not taking blood pressure medication.

Get Enough Sleep

While you snooze, your body naturally lowers blood pressure. So if you don't get adequate sleep, you'll have higher blood pressure for longer durations. Therefore, people who experience insomnia and sleep deprivation—especially people 45 years or older—are more at risk of high blood pressure. A 2016 research article also found evidence that people who sleep less than seven hours at night are more likely to have high blood pressure.

Over time, not getting enough sleep may cause blood pressure to rise, so finding time to get at least seven hours each night may help lower your blood pressure.

Eat Plenty of Protein  

Diets rich in protein and fiber may help lower high blood pressure. A 2014 study found that people who ate 100 g of protein daily for nearly 11 years had a 40% lower risk of high blood pressure than those who ate low amounts of protein. Additionally, high protein diets that were also high in fiber helped people reduce their risk for high blood pressure by 59%.

To increase your protein intake, look for foods containing at least 7 g per ounce. High-protein foods include fish, eggs, meat, beans, legumes, nuts, and dairy products like cheese and Greek yogurt. Research has also shown that whey protein supplements may help lower systolic blood pressure.

Get Enough Omega-3s

It is estimated that consuming at least 3 g of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) omega-3 fatty acids may help decrease your blood pressure. These forms of polyunsaturated fat are essential for a healthy body and heart health.

A 2014 meta-analysis found that fish oil (an omega-3 supplement) helped reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels in people with high blood pressure. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also supports that consuming omega-3 from food and dietary supplements reduces the risk of high blood pressure and coronary heart disease. Eating more omega-3-rich foods like salmon, tuna, flaxseed, and chia seed can also help you improve your omega-3 levels.

Take Dietary Supplements 

While research is limited, it's purported that taking magnesium, and garlic (specifically kyolic garlic) as dietary supplements may help lower your blood pressure. High blood pressure has been linked to a magnesium deficiency, and magnesium can help your body maintain a normal heart rhythm.

Research also shows that L-citrulline—a type of amino acid forms proteins—can help people lower systolic blood pressure. This may be because L-citrulline helps increase nitric oxide levels, relaxing the arteries and improving blood flow. Before taking any dietary supplements, chat with your healthcare provider.

Limit Alcohol Intake

Drinking alcohol can increase your blood pressure, and interact with blood pressure medications you may be taking. Research has shown that drinking more than 30 g of alcohol increases systolic and diastolic blood pressure after 13 or more hours of drinking—even though it initially lowered blood pressure.

If you are diagnosed with hypertension, your healthcare provider may suggest cutting back or eliminating alcohol. Try limiting alcohol to one 12-ounce beer, one 4-ounce glass of wine, or only 1.5 ounces (oz) of liquor per day. 

Quit Smoking

Due to the nicotine in tobacco, smoking temporarily increases heart rate and blood pressure each time you smoke. However, the long-term effect of smoking on blood pressure is a little unclear.

An extensive 2015 review found that smokers had lower blood pressure than nonsmokers. Conversely, a 2016 study found smoking worsened high blood pressure in young adults. A 2018 study also found that smoking electronic cigarettes increased blood pressure in people with high blood pressure.

Despite the inconclusive research, smoking can damage your heart and blood vessels. As a result, major organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend quitting smoking to help manage high blood pressure and heart disease risk.

Cut Back on Caffeine

Caffeine can temporarily raise your blood pressure, even if you don't have high blood pressure. However, this effect isn't a risk for most people, and some research even shows caffeine may help lower the risk of high blood pressure.

That said, people with high blood pressure may have issues with caffeine. A study found that people with hypertension increased their blood pressure and their risk of heart disease if they drank more than two cups of coffee every day.

Although research on this is limited, even the AHA notes that people with high blood pressure should limit caffeine and drink only one 8-ounce cup of coffee or caffeinated tea daily.

Take Blood Pressure Medications 

Even with lifestyle changes, your healthcare provider may recommend taking prescription medications to help lower your blood pressure. Blood pressure medications used to treat hypertension include:

  • Diuretics (water pills): Medications that help your body eliminate excess sodium and water to reduce blood pressure, including Hygroton (chlorthalidone) and Midamar (amiloride hydrochloride).
  • Beta-blockers: Medications that help decrease your heart rate to lower blood pressure, including Sectral (acebutolol) and Tenormin (atenolol).
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors): Medications that lower angiotensin II production to help relax blood vessels, including Lotensin (benazepril hydrochloride) and Capoten (captopril).
  • Angiotensin II receptor blockers ( ARBs): Medications that block angiotensin II production that restricts the arteries so your blood vessels can relax, including Atacand (candesartan) and Teveten (eprosartan mesylate).
  • Calcium channel blockers: Medications that reduce calcium entering heart muscles and artery cells, including Norvasc and Lotrel (amlodipine besylate).

A Quick Review

The simplest ways to lower your blood pressure are implementing lifestyle changes that involve a nutritious diet, lowering sodium, and exercise. Other things that help are reducing stress, getting more sleep, and limiting alcohol consumption.

If you have high blood pressure, talk with your healthcare provider before making any drastic dietary changes or adding new supplements to your diet. Your healthcare provider can help you determine the best methods to reduce blood pressure for you.

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Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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