High blood pressure, also known as hypertension (See blood pressure chart below) is called the “silent killer” for a reason — there are no obvious symptoms but it can result in heart attack, stroke and even death. The good news is there’s a lot you can do to maintain healthy blood pressure or get back to one, often without the need for medications.
For people who aren't able to bring their levels down naturally, blood pressure medication may be necessary. Of the 14% of Americans now considered to have high blood pressure, around one in five will need to be treated with meds, according to the AHA. But if your high blood pressure is a result of unhealthy habits, making some simple changes may help reduce—or even eliminate—your need for prescription drugs. With your doctor’s okay, give these home remedies for high blood pressure a try and see if they work for you.
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.
Arteries are naturally flexible and smooth, which allows blood to easily move throughout the body. High blood pressure creates extra force against the artery walls, which damages the lining of the arteries. As they become narrower and harder, this restricts blood flow, and when blood flow is lowered, the heart has to work harder to pump it through the body, which only makes the problem worse.
A diet that’s low in fat and carbohydrates can improve artery function, according to a 2012 study by Johns Hopkins researchers. After six months, those on the low-carb diet had lost more weight, and at a faster pace. But in both groups, when weight was lost—and especially when belly fat shrank—the arteries were able to expand better, allowing blood to travel more freely. The study shows that you don’t have to cut out all dietary fat to shrink belly fat. For heart health, simply losing weight and exercising seems to be key.
In one 2009 study, every hour less of average sleep duration per night was associated with a 37% increase in the odds of developing hypertension over five years. In another report from 2015, people with sleep apnea—a dangerous condition that can cause hypertension in itself—saw reductions in their blood pressure when they were treated with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines or mandibular advancement devices (MADs).
Cayenne Pepper is probably the fastest way to lower high blood pressure. Cayenne pepper is a powerful vasodilator, which means it helps expand blood vessels and improve blood flow. This effect naturally lowers blood pressure levels by increasing the rate at which blood flows throughout the circulatory system, which in turn takes some of the pressure off arterial walls. Either mix one teaspoon of cayenne pepper with half a cup of lukewarm water or mix two tablespoons of raw organic honey with two teaspoons of cayenne pepper; boil them with eight ounces of water and drink when it is warm. A side note: Be careful how many Scoville Units your cayenne pepper is. I bought mine, 90,000 Scoville Units, and OMG. I thought I was going to breathe fire.
Find activities you enjoy, and aim for 30 minutes a day of "exercise" on most days of the week. If you can't stand the gym, not a problem. Dancing counts. So do yoga, hiking, gardening, and anything else that gets your heart beating a bit faster. Since you're going to be making it a habit, pick things you'll want to do often. Let your doctor know what you have in mind, so they can make sure you're ready.
3. Implement strategies to lower inflammation. Several cross-sectional and longitudinal studies connect high blood pressure with chronic inflammation, a driving force for nearly every disease on the planet. Lowering inflammation starts with what you put on your fork. Focus on anti-inflammatory foods like wild-caught seafood (rich in omega-3 fatty acids), freshly ground flax and chia seeds, spices like turmeric, and plenty of colorful plant foods. Good sleep, stress management, exercise, and the right nutrients can also help lower inflammation.
Hypertension can be effectively treated with lifestyle modifications, medications, and natural remedies. Most people with hypertension experience improvement with prescription treatment such as diuretics, ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, or other options, and some may require more than one prescription medication to reach optimal blood pressure. If your hypertension has a medical cause (secondary hypertension), you may also need treatment for medical issues that are contributing to your high blood pressure.
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).
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.
The right tunes can help bring your blood pressure down, according to Italian research. Researchers asked 29 adults who were already taking BP medication to listen to soothing classical, Celtic, or Indian music for 30 minutes daily while breathing slowly. When they followed up with the subjects six months later, their blood pressure had dropped by an average of 4 mmHg.
Loading up on potassium-rich fruits and vegetables is an important part of any blood pressure-lowering program, says Linda Van Horn, PhD, RD, a professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Potassium encourages the kidneys to excrete more sodium through urination, and that sodium excretion can help lower blood pressure.
“Exercise, particularly cardio and aerobic exercise, has been known to be a potent dropper of blood pressure for a long time, and we know that fruits and vegetables rich in potassium and naturally occurring nitrates can actually lower blood pressure as effectively as many of the medications,” he said. “So that, to me, is no surprise. It’s nice that they put it all together in this study.”
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.
Sipping on not one but four cups of tea daily can help control blood pressure. A study presented at the European Society of Hyper tension in Milan found those who avoided coffee and tea consumption all together had the highest rates of blood pressure, pulse pressure, and heart rate. Those who drank tea the most often, between one to four cups a day, had the lowest systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings, as well as the lowest pulse pressure and heart rate. Pinkies up, for your blood pressure’s sake.
A 2013 review on yoga and blood pressure found an average blood pressure decrease of 3.62 mm Hg diastolic and 4.17 mm Hg systolic when compared to those who didn’t exercise. Studies of yoga practices that included breath control, postures, and meditation were nearly twice as effective as yoga practices that didn’t include all three of these elements (24).
Exercise can help you lose weight, but it does much more. Exercise strengthens your heart, improves circulation, and it can even reduce stress. Aim to fit in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio most days of the week, which can lower your blood pressure by 4-9 millimeters of mercury. Good choices include cycling, jogging, aerobic dance, swimming, and tennis. If exercise is new to you, talk to the staff at First Choice Medical for guidance about how to start.
In addition to these methods being effective, other lifestyle changes and diet adjustments may also be useful in lower blood pressure. One study explains that losing weight can have a significant positive impact on patients that have been diagnosed with hypertension. Even small reductions in bodyweight amongst those individuals who are both obese and hypertensive can yield life-saving benefits. Dietary changes can also help. In particular, the patient should aim to lower their daily intake of sodium, which causes an elevation in blood pressure. The patient should also focus on obtaining more calcium, potassium and other minerals that are useful in balancing blood pressure levels. Fiber, fruits and a lot of vegetables should also be an essential part of the patient’s daily diet.
Sleep apnea, diabetes, and stress, each of which may be controlled (though this can be difficult), can also put a strain on the cardiovascular system and intensify blood pressure and related problems. Factors that put you in a high-risk category but that are difficult (or impossible) to control include family history, gender, and chronic kidney disease.
Heart damage leads to coronary artery disease, the narrowing of arteries that supply blood pressure to your heart. Overtime coronary artery disease leads to heart attacks and irregular heart rhythms. Damage to your heart could lead to an enlarged heart caused by forcing your heart to work harder than normal, leading to heart attack and sudden cardiac death. And lastly damage to your heart leads to heart
Consider once again the analogy of the garden hose. If you turn on the water “harder,” there is more pressure in the hose. Excessive salt in the diet can result in excessive fluid volume in the blood, which results in elevated blood pressure. This cause, too, is reversible, as a plant-based diet of whole, natural foods, devoid of added salt, is naturally low in sodium chloride.
Stress hormones constrict your blood vessels and can lead to temporary spikes in blood pressure. In addition, over time, stress can trigger unhealthy habits that put your cardiovascular health at risk. These might include overeating, poor sleep, and misusing drugs and alcohol. For all these reasons, reducing stress should be a priority if you're looking to lower your blood pressure.
Cardamom is a seasoning that comes from India and is often used in South Asian cuisine. A small study of 20 people investigating the health effects of cardamom found that participants with high blood pressure saw significant reductions in their blood pressure readings after taking 1.5 grams of cardamom powder twice a day for 12 weeks. You can include cardamom seeds or powder in spice rubs, soups and stews, and even baked goods for a special flavor and a possible positive health benefit.