In most cases where high blood pressure is diagnosed, the cause remains unclear. One review paper in the International Journal of Hypertension explains that this accounts for around 90% of all hypertension diagnosis and is usually referred to as essential hypertension. Secondary hypertension is diagnosed when a cause can be identified. Potential causes of secondary hypertension may include:
1. Isometric handgrip exercises. An American Heart Association study found that squeezing a spring-loaded handgrip for two minutes, over a period of 12 to 15 minutes three times a week, can help lower blood pressure. Why? The study found that blood flow returns to your hands after the isometric exercise, improving blood vessel function. Another study reported in the journal Hypertension found this exercise produced a 10% drop in both systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number) readings when practiced six times a day, five days a week for four weeks.
Cold-water fish. Increasing serum measurements of DHA/EPA, markers of fish intake, are related to lower blood pressure (12, 13, 14). However, steer clear of most fish oil supplements and instead have patients obtain beneficial nutrients from whole foods whenever possible. A recent analysis showed that the three top-selling fish oils in the United States contained oxidized lipids that may be causing more harm than good (15). Beyond DHA and EPA, fish also have selenium, zinc, iron, and a highly absorbable protein that also may reduce blood pressure (16). Aim for cold-water fatty fish three times a week.
One of the most important lifestyle changes to adapt when hypertension affects a patient is a more active daily routine. Exercise is reported to be an exceptionally useful method for controlling blood pressure levels and for reducing blood pressure in patients diagnosed with hypertension. Additionally, patients who regularly participate in physical activities are also at a lower risk of developing a complication or complications due to high blood pressure.
How low should you go? Aim to keep your sodium intake below 1,500 mg for healthy blood pressure, recommends the American Heart Association. That’s about half of what most Americans consume per day. Going easy on the saltshaker can help, but you’ll make a bigger impact by watching the sodium count in packaged or processed foods, Obarzanek says. (Pay extra attention to bread and rolls, pizza, soup, cold cuts, poultry, and sandwiches, which tend to pack the most salt.) Then try these other simple ways to slash your salt intake.

A comprehensive exercise regimen, such as my Peak Fitness program, is very important in producing long-term benefits in people with high blood pressure. Nearly every program should incorporate anaerobic sprint or burst-type exercises one to three times a week, as these have been shown to be even more effective than aerobic exercises at reducing your risk of dying from a heart attack.
If you cannot be sure that your diet includes sufficient potassium, consider supplementation. However, including potassium in your diet gives better results, as an intake from food can be accessed by the body more efficiently. Potassium-rich foods include squash, sardines, salmon, raisins, potatoes, organs, pears, legumes, beets, bananas, carrots, and apricots, among many other fruits and vegetables.

If you’re eating more fruits and vegetables, you’re already taking a positive step toward reducing salt and enhancing potassium intake. Sodium can be found in abundance in processed foods – anything that comes in a package, can, or especially from a fast food restaurant. If you’re over 50, or at higher risk, aim for no more than 1,500 mg/day. Check your food labels for sodium content. If you see that a food has more than 400-500 mg in a serving, see if there’s a lower-sodium option.
Another study by UCLA researchers of 1,117 men and women with high blood pressure reported that within three weeks of arriving at Pritikin, systolic blood pressure fell on average 9%. Diastolic pressure also fell 9%. Of those taking blood pressure drugs, 55% returned home medication-free. Many of the remaining 45% left Pritikin with their dosages substantially reduced.2

Flavanols an anti-inflammatory and heart-protective antioxidant found in raw cacao may protect against cardiovascular disease, reduce the risk of stroke, and help improve blood circulation. Thus lowering your blood pressure. Cacao contains over 700 compounds and the complex antioxidants found in it known as polyphenols help reduce ‘bad cholesterol’ and prevent hardening of the arteries.


But the dark chocolate should be 60 to 70 percent cacao. A review of studies on dark chocolate has found that eating one to two squares of dark chocolate per day may help lower the risk of heart disease by lowering blood pressure and inflammation. The benefits are thought to come from the flavonoids present in chocolate with more cocoa solids. The flavonoids help dilate, or widen, your blood vessels (25).

Get moving at least a little bit every day, with a standard recommendation of 30-60 minutes a day, 3-5 times a week. Get your heart pumping at a moderate intensity for a few times a week, and mix it up with some strength training. Because life happens, on the days when you can’t fit it in, try to build more activity into your day by parking further away, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or even just doing a quick sprint or two up and down the block. Every little bit helps.
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Exercise is the soulmate to eating right. You’re more likely to lose weight if you exercise and follow a healthy diet. Official recommendations call for at least half an hour of exercise most days of the week. The effects can be dramatic: Blood pressure drops of 4 to 9 points. Remember that exercise isn’t just going to the gym. It can be gardening, washing your car, or housework. But things that get your heart rate up -- aerobic activities -- like walking, dancing, jogging, riding your bike, and swimming are best for your heart.
Other exercise options that don’t require a gym membership include body weight exercises, like pushups, squats, and jumping jacks. These exercises can be done at home or outside. For people who like going to the gym or running, these can be good ways to build community, notes Parker. Apps like Fitbit and MapMyRun can be helpful if you like keeping track of your steps, calories burned, weight, or number of miles run.
Ask your doctor if low-fat or nonfat milk is better than whole milk for you. Whole milk can lower blood pressure better than low-fat or nonfat milk, but there may also be risks. Whole milk contains Palmitic acid, which, according to some studies, can block internal signals responsible for relaxing blood vessels. As a result, your blood vessels stay constricted and your blood pressure remains high.[7]

Health.com is part of the Meredith Health Group. All rights reserved. The material in this site is intended to be of general informational use and is not intended to constitute medical advice, probable diagnosis, or recommended treatments. All products and services featured are selected by our editors. Health.com may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. Offers may be subject to change without notice. See the Terms of Servicethis link opens in a new tab and Privacy Policythis link opens in a new tab (Your California Rightsthis link opens in a new tab)for more information. Ad Choicesthis link opens in a new tab | EU Data Subject Requeststhis link opens in a new tab

Dr. Goldberg teaches these patients to monitor their blood pressure at home in the mornings and evenings. This gives her a more complete picture before prescribing any medications. But there’s a hidden benefit, as well: Research suggests that keeping track of their own blood pressure may be incentive for patients to make healthy choices like losing weight and eating healthier. 
As much as I want, these alternative therapies do not replace traditional approaches for blood pressure control (low salt diet, medications). The best way to look at them is as strategies to complement what your doctor has already been prescribing you for your high blood pressure. This could really help if you have mild hypertension, where alternative therapies could potentially help you get off your blood pressure medications, but I highly doubt anyone with severe hypertension is getting off their Norvasc just because they started doing transcendental meditation. 
These methods will reduce blood pressure immediately, and some, like exercise, keep blood pressure down for nearly 24 hours. However, all methods should be made part of a regular daily lifestyle for the changes to be effective. Unmanaged and untreated high blood pressure can lead to kidney and heart failure, stroke, and many other potentially fatal conditions.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed about how to make changes to your diet or if you’re trying to lose weight, you may want to consider working with a registered dietitian-nutritionist (RDN). Some people work with an RDN if they have a health condition like type 2 diabetes. In fact, high blood pressure is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. This is partly because they share similar modifiable risk factors, like being overweight or obese, following an unhealthy diet, and having a lack of physical activity.
7. Visit your chiropractor. A special chiropractic adjustment could significantly lower high blood pressure, a placebo-controlled study suggests. “This procedure has the effect of not one, but two blood–pressure medications given in combination,” study leader George Bakris, MD, told WebMD. Your chiropractor can create an effective protocol that helps normalize blood pressure without medication or other invasive procedures.
If you already have high blood pressure, home monitoring can let you know if your fitness routine is helping to lower your blood pressure, and may make it so you don't need to visit your doctor to have your blood pressure checked as often. Home blood pressure monitoring isn't a substitute for visits to your doctor, and home blood pressure monitors may have some limitations.
Patients may be rushed and anxious when they’re in the doctor’s office, resulting in higher-than-normal blood pressure readings. Home monitors let patients measure and record blood pressure throughout the day for greater accuracy. Patients can keep a log of their numbers and bring the log and the monitor to their doctor’s appointment to check for accuracy.
Dairy or soy—it’s your choice. Replacing some of the refined carbohydrates in your diet with foods high in soy or milk protein (like tofu or low-fat dairy) can bring down systolic blood pressure if you have hypertension or prehypertension, findings suggest. "Some patients get inflammation from refined carbohydrates, which will increase blood pressure," says Matthew J. Budoff, MD, FACC, Professor of Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine and Director of Cardiac CT at the Division of Cardiology at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.
While you shouldn't shrug off the change, there's also no need to panic. "Obviously, nothing happened overnight inside a woman's body or to her health with the release of the guidelines," says Dr. Naomi Fisher, director of hypertension service and hypertension innovation at the Brigham and Women's Hospital Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Hypertension, and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Blood pressure medications should only be taken according to your doctor’s instructions. Never take another person’s blood pressure medication and never take an extra or early dose of your own medications unless advised to do so by your doctor. All blood pressure medications can cause dangerously low blood pressure when taken by the wrong person or when taken in excess or too early.
But the dark chocolate should be 60 to 70 percent cacao. A review of studies on dark chocolate has found that eating one to two squares of dark chocolate per day may help lower the risk of heart disease by lowering blood pressure and inflammation. The benefits are thought to come from the flavonoids present in chocolate with more cocoa solids. The flavonoids help dilate, or widen, your blood vessels (25).
Perhaps you’ve never given much thought to your blood pressure, especially if it’s been spot on for most of your life. But as you get older and deal with more stressful aspects of in life, it can affect your blood pressure. Maybe not quite high enough to require medication, but it may be something to keep an eye on it. And this can affect even those who eat well, exercise most days, and do all the right things to stay healthy.
First, keep in mind that drugs have limited success. Most studies on diuretics and other blood pressure-lowering drugs suggest they lower the risk of cardiovascular events among those with blood pressure between 140/90 and 159/99 by 15 to 20%.3 The problem is, with this range of blood pressure, the risk of cardiovascular-related deaths has increased by 300 to 400% compared to people with normal blood pressure.

But not all high blood pressure is safe, and the longer it stays at a high rate, the more health risks you assume. Risks include acute responses like sweating, fainting or shortness of breath, and more severe issues like heart disease and heart attack can arise. So when stress hits, knowing how to lower blood pressure quickly can be a great health benefit.


6. Add garlic to everything. If you're already suffering from high blood pressure, eating garlic regularly can reduce your blood pressure by about 20 points, or 10 to 15 percent. When garlic is crushed it releases allicin, which decreases blood pressure and acts as a natural anti-inflammatory. Make sure you let your garlic sit for about 15 minutes after chopping or crushing, to allow the allicin to release. Cook on a low temperature to get the maximum benefit, as a high temperature will kill many of garlic's healing properties.
A 2013 study published in “Hypertension” concluded that flaxseed lowers blood pressure in hypertensive patients. It is a great home remedy for high blood pressure. More than 100 patients diagnosed with peripheral artery disease, a condition associated with high blood pressure, were assigned to a flaxseed group or a placebo group. The former ate 30 grams of flaxseed every day for 6 months.
If you’re eating more fruits and vegetables, you’re already taking a positive step toward reducing salt and enhancing potassium intake. Sodium can be found in abundance in processed foods – anything that comes in a package, can, or especially from a fast food restaurant. If you’re over 50, or at higher risk, aim for no more than 1,500 mg/day. Check your food labels for sodium content. If you see that a food has more than 400-500 mg in a serving, see if there’s a lower-sodium option.
Eating a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products (such as the DASH diet) while cutting back on foods that are high in saturated fat and cholesterol can significantly lower your blood pressure. One way to stick to a healthy diet is to write down everything you eat. Keeping a diary for even just a week can make people aware of their true eating habits.
An aside: We don't much like taking medications, either. But if you end up needing blood pressure medicine to achieve a healthy blood pressure, don't be discouraged. The medicines are effective and safe, and they present only mild side effects, if any. Studies comparing older and newer blood pressure medicines found that one of the oldest and cheapest classes of drugs (the thiazide diuretics, such as hydrochlorothiazide and chlorthalidone) was as good as, or better than, the newer, more expensive ones. 

Other exercise options that don’t require a gym membership include body weight exercises, like pushups, squats, and jumping jacks. These exercises can be done at home or outside. For people who like going to the gym or running, these can be good ways to build community, notes Parker. Apps like Fitbit and MapMyRun can be helpful if you like keeping track of your steps, calories burned, weight, or number of miles run.
Stress can cause blood pressure to rise, both short- and long-term. So finding something that helps you relax can be an important part of preventing or reducing hypertension. What that something is, exactly, is up to you—but research suggests that yoga, meditation, spending time with pets, laughing, and even having sex (!) may be good choices. “Just like with exercise, you have to choose something that you enjoy and that you can do consistently as part of your daily lifestyle,” says Dr. Bisognano. 
Elevated blood pressure refers to an increase in the pressure or tension applied to blood vessels. Blood pressure is measured by providing two different readings, including systolic blood pressure and diastolic pressure. Blood pressure levels that raise beyond 120/80 is considered elevated. At 130/80, a person is considered to be experiencing high blood pressure. High blood pressure is often classified into two stages. State 1 hypertension is diagnosed when blood pressure levels fall between 130-139/80-89. Stage 2 hypertension is diagnosed when a patient’s blood pressure becomes higher than 140/90.
Elevating your feet will not lower blood pressure and will actually increase the blood pressure reading when your feet are higher than your heart. On the other hand, if you are doing activities to relieve stress such as yoga (which often elevates your legs, such as legs-up-the-wall pose), then over the long run, these stress reducing activities may help to decrease your blood pressure (but it is not the act of elevating the legs that is lowering the blood pressure it is the stress relieving activity).
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