6 Best Ways to Lower Your Blood Pressure Without Medication
Expert tips to ward off hypertension—no drugs required.
High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is much more serious than many people realize. It can have severe complications, as Melody H. Hermel, MD, a cardiologist with United Medical Doctors in La Jolla, California, explains: "High blood pressure is one of the leading modifiable risk factors for coronary heart disease, stroke, heart failure, atrial fibrillation, chronic kidney disease, heart valve diseases, aortic syndromes, and dementia," she says.
Modifiable is the key word here, because there's a lot you can do to lower your blood pressure on your own, without medication. "The cornerstone of high blood pressure management is lifestyle modification," says Hermel. Read on to find out how you can ward off hypertension with a few simple lifestyle changes.
READ THIS NEXT: This Is Why Your High Blood Pressure Isn't Responding to Medication.
Eat healthy—and skip the salt.
A healthy diet addresses high blood pressure in a couple of different ways, and can be a delicious way to go about improving your health. Hermel suggests a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, as well as limiting your salt consumption.
In fact, there's a name for this diet: the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. "The DASH diet is a healthy-eating plan designed to help treat or prevent high blood pressure (hypertension)," explains the Mayo Clinic, and "includes foods that are rich in potassium, calcium and magnesium" which are nutrients that can help with controlling blood pressure. "The diet limits foods that are high in sodium, saturated fat and added sugars."
Not only does the DASH diet contribute helpful nutrients, but a proper diet in moderation also aids with lowering blood pressure by addressing your weight.
"Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing high blood pressure. In fact, your blood pressure rises as your body weight increases," according to an article published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "Losing even 10 pounds can lower your blood pressure—and losing weight has the biggest effect on those who are overweight and already have hypertension."
Get regular exercise.
The Mayo Clinic advises that while it's true that the risk of hypertension increases with age, exercise makes a huge difference. "Regular exercise makes the heart stronger," explains the site. "A stronger heart can pump more blood with less effort. As a result, the force on the arteries decreases. This lowers blood pressure."
If you already have hypertension, it's not too late to make physical activity part of your routine. Exercise can help control and manage the condition, the Mayo Clinic says. "You don't need to immediately run a marathon or join a gym. Instead, start slow and work more physical activity into your daily routine."
Get plenty of good rest.
Anyone who suffers from insomnia, whether it's once in a while or a regular thing, knows that the resulting fatigue and irritability is not exactly a health benefit. But not sleeping well can have other negative effects on your wellness, including your blood pressure.
"Research suggests that sleeping five hours or less a night can, over time, increase your risk of developing—or worsening—high blood pressure," Naima Covassin, MD, tells the Mayo Clinic. "It's not fully understood why this occurs, but it's thought that sleep helps regulate stress hormones and helps your nervous system to remain healthy," says Covassin. "Over time, lack of sleep could hurt your body's ability to regulate stress hormones, leading to high blood pressure."
Drink more water—and skip the alcohol.
Alcohol affects your blood pressure in several different ways—all of them bad. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, MD, explains to the Mayo Clinic that drinking too much—in one sitting or repeatedly—can spike your blood pressure.
In addition, Lopez-Jimenez cautions that alcohol can cause weight gain, which can result in high blood pressure, and may also interact with blood pressure medication. "If you have high blood pressure, avoid alcohol or drink alcohol only in moderation," he recommends.
Water, on the other hand, can help. "Something as simple as keeping yourself hydrated by drinking six to eight glasses of water every day improves blood pressure," HealthMatch says, also pointing out that adding certain minerals to your water can make it even more blood pressure-friendly. "Water makes up 73 percent of the human heart, so no other liquid is better at controlling blood pressure," the site reports.
Other hydrating options include decaffeinated herbal tea, milk, and sugar-free sparkling water, says HealthMatch.
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If you smoke, stop.
It's impossible to overstate how much quitting smoking boosts your overall health. More than 16 million Americans currently suffer from diseases caused by smoking, says the CDC. "Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis," the site reports. "Smoking also increases risk for tuberculosis, certain eye diseases, and problems of the immune system, including rheumatoid arthritis."
According to WebMD, smoking cigarettes "raises your blood pressure and heart rate, narrows your arteries and hardens their walls, and makes your blood more likely to clot. It stresses your heart and sets you up for a heart attack or stroke."
Let your inner artist loose.
While you're making sure to eat right, exercise, and drink more water, make time to embrace creativity, as well. Keeping a gratitude journal has been shown to lower blood pressure, and coloring in a coloring book is another way to relax, says the Mayo Clinic.
Creative expression "helps maintain our immune systems [and] art is clinically proven to reduce stress, elevate mood, and lower blood pressure," according to Intermountain Healthcare. "In fact, research also shows that patients who are exposed to art during a hospital stay actually heal quicker and have a better overall experience."