High blood pressure (hypertension) is termed a “silent killer” for a good reason. It is often asymptomatic but is a significant risk for heart disease and stroke. High blood pressure is one of many leading causes of death in the UK.
Blood pressure measurements exist in millimetres of mercury (mmHg). There are two numerical digits used in the measure:
- Systolic blood pressure. The top digit represents the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats.
- Diastolic blood pressure. The bottom digit represents the pressure in your blood vessels between beats when your heart is resting.
Blood pressure may depend on how much blood your heart pumps and blood flow resistance in your arteries. Narrower arteries cause higher blood pressure.
Blood pressure under 120/80 mmHg is quite normal. Blood pressure 130/80 mmHg or over is high. If your numbers are over normal but under 130/80 mmHg, you fall into the category of elevated blood pressure, meaning that you are at risk for developing high blood pressure.
Lifestyle changes can reduce your elevated blood pressure, which helps significantly reduce your numbers and lower your risk – without taking medication.
Here are effective ways to lower your blood pressure levels (17 tips):
1. Exercise more and increase activity
Studies show sedentary older adults who took part in aerobic exercise training lowered their blood pressure. These results are almost as good as taking some blood pressure pills.
When you regularly increase your heart and breathing rates, over time, your heart gets stronger and pumps with less effort, putting less pressure on your arteries and lowering blood pressure.
How much activity should I do? General advice is to participate in medium to vigorous-intensity physical activity for 40-minute sessions, three to four times per week.
Finding 40 minutes at a time is not easy. We can still benefit from dividing the time into three or four 10 to 15-minute segments throughout the day.
No need to run long marathons. Increasing your physical activity level can be as easy as:
- Walking up and downstairs,
- Walking instead of driving,
- Going for a bike ride,
- Playing sports,
- Doing household chores,
- Just do it regularly, and build up to at least half an hour per day of medium activity.
One example of a medium activity that can help significantly is tai chi.
Many exercise combinations can reduce blood pressure. Resistance training, aerobic exercise, high-intensity interval training, walking 10,000 steps a day, or short bouts of exercise throughout the day could lower blood pressure.
Even light physical activity is beneficial, especially in older adults and the elderly.
2. If you're overweight, lose weight
If you are overweight, losing even 2.5 to 5 kg can lower your blood pressure. In addition, you will reduce the risk for other medical problems.
Weight-loss diets can also reduce blood pressure.
3. Reduce sugar and refined carbohydrates
Restricting sugar and refined carbohydrates may help you lose weight and reduce your blood pressure.
Suppose we compare a low-carb diet to a low-fat diet. Both diets can help lose weight, but the low-carb diet would be more effective in lowering blood pressure.
A positive side effect of a low-carb, low-sugar diet is that you feel fuller for extended periods because you consume more protein and fat.
4. Eat less sodium and more potassium
Increasing your potassium intake and reducing salt can lower your blood pressure.
Potassium wins twice over: Potassium lowers the effect of salt in your system and softens tension in your blood vessels. However, potassium-rich diets could be harmful to individuals with kidney disease, so please make sure you talk to your GP before increasing potassium intake.
Eating more potassium is easy as many foods are naturally high in potassium. Here are a few examples:
- Milk and yoghurt (low-fat dairy foods)
- Fruits, for example, bananas, apricots, avocados, and oranges
- Vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, potatoes, tomatoes, greens, and spinach
Please note that individuals respond to salt differently. Some people could be salt-sensitive, which means a higher salt intake increases blood pressure. Others can be salt-insensitive, meaning they have a high salt intake and excrete it in their urine without raising their blood pressure.
Some Dietary Suggestions to Stop Blood Pressure.
- Low-sodium foods
- Low-fat dairy
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Fewer sweets and red meats
5. Consume less processed food
Most of the additional salt in your diet comes from processed foods and restaurants, not from your salt shaker at home. The most popular high-salt items include
- Deli meats,
- Canned soup,
- Chips, and other processed snacks.
Foods labelled “low-fat” are usually high in salt and sugar to compensate for fat loss. Fat is what makes food taste good and what makes you feel full.
Lowering, or even better, stopping processed food will help you consume less salt, less sugar, and much less refined carbohydrates. All of this can help reduce lower blood pressure.
Make it a practice to check labels.
6. Stop smoking
Quitting smoking will be good for your health in general. Smoking can cause an immediate but temporary raised blood pressure and an increased heart rate.
Long term, the chemicals in tobacco can raise your blood pressure by damaging your blood vessel walls, resulting in inflammation, as well as narrowing of your arteries. Hardened arteries will cause higher blood pressure.
The chemicals found in tobacco can affect your blood vessels, even from passive smoke.
7. Lower excess stress
Demands from family and workplace and national and international politics contribute to stress. Searching for ways to reduce your stress is vital for your health and blood pressure.
There are many different ways to relieve stress successfully, so find what works for you. Practice deep breathing, walk, read a book, or watch a comedy.
Listening to music every day can also reduce systolic blood pressure. Regular sauna use may reduce death from heart-related events. Acupuncture could also lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
8. Meditation or yoga
Meditation and mindfulness, including transcendental meditation, have been used for a long time to help reduce stress.
Yoga involves breathing control, posture, and meditation techniques to help reduce stress and lower blood pressure.
9. Eating dark chocolate
Yes, indeed, chocolate lovers: Dark chocolate could lower blood pressure.
But only if the dark chocolate is 60 to 70 per cent cacao. Studies on dark chocolate have found that eating one to two squares of dark chocolate daily could help minimise the risk of heart disease by reducing blood pressure and inflammation. The benefits come from the flavonoids present in chocolate with more cocoa solids. Flavonoids can help dilate or widen your blood vessels.
10. Medicinal herbs
Trying herbal medicines, which have long been used in many cultures to treat various ailments, could also help reduce blood pressure.
However, more research is due to identify the doses and components of the most valuable herbs.
Remember to always check with your pharmacist or doctor before taking herbal supplements. They could interfere or interact with your prescription medication.
A small list of plants and herbs used by various cultures throughout the world to help lower blood pressure:
- Cat’s claw (Uncaria rhynchophylla)
- Black bean (Castanospermum australe)
- Chinese hawthorn (Crataegus pinnatifida)
- Celery juice (Apium graveolens)
- Giant dodder (Cuscuta reflexa)
- Maritime pine bark (Pinus pinaster)
- Indian plantago (blond psyllium)
- Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa)
- River lily (Crinum glaucum)
- Tomato extract (Lycopersicon esculentum)
- Sesame oil (Sesamum indicum)
- Umbrella tree bark (Musanga cecropioides)
- Tea (Camellia sinensis)
- Green tea and oolong tea
11. Good sleep is important
Your blood pressure typically lowers when you are sleeping. Not sleeping well will affect your blood pressure. People who experience sleep deprivation, predominantly middle-aged, have an increased risk of high blood pressure.
For some people, a good night’s sleep may not be easy. There are numerous ways to help you get restful sleep. By setting a regular sleep schedule, avoiding daytime naps, exercising during the day, spending time relaxing at night, and making your bedroom comfortable.
Sleeping less than SEVEN hours per night regularly and more than NINE hours per night has increased hypertension. Regularly sleeping less than FIVE hours per night has been linked to a significant risk of hypertension long term.
12. Eating garlic or taking garlic extract supplements
Fresh garlic or garlic extracts could potentially lower blood pressure.
A time-release garlic extract preparation may improve blood pressure than regular garlic powder tablets.
13. Eating healthy high-protein foods
People who eat more protein could have a lower risk of high blood pressure. Eating an average of 100 grams of protein per day could lower the risk of having high blood pressure by 40 per cent than those on a low-protein diet. Those adding regular fibre into their diet may see up to 60 per cent reduction of risk.
However, eating a lot of protein may not be suitable for everyone. Those with kidney disease may need caution. Talk to your doctor.
Consuming 100 grams of protein daily is easy on most diets.
Foods that contain high-protein include:
- Fish, for example, salmon or canned tuna in water
- Poultry, such as chicken breast
- Beans and legumes, such as kidney beans and lentils
- Nuts or nut butter such as peanut butter
- Cheese, such as cheddar
A 100g serving of salmon can have as much as 22 grams (g) of protein
A 100g serving of chicken breast may contain 30g of protein.
- 65g of most beans may contain 7g to 10g of protein.
- Two tablespoons of peanut butter might provide 8 g.
14. Try BP-lowering supplements
Supplements are readily available and have shown promise in lowering blood pressure:
Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid
You can have various benefits by adding omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids or fish oil to your diet.
Fish oils can help in the reduction of high blood pressure.
This protein complex derived from milk might have several health benefits and possibly lower blood pressure.
Magnesium deficiency may be related to higher blood pressure. A slight reduction in blood pressure is possible with magnesium supplementation.
CoQ10, an antioxidant, could lower blood pressure.
Oral L-citrulline, a precursor to L-arginine in the body, is a protein building block to lower blood pressure.
15. Reduce alcohol intake
Alcohol may raise your blood pressure, even if you are healthy.
Drinking alcohol in moderation is extremely important. Alcohol may raise your blood pressure by 1 mm Hg for every 10 grams of alcohol consumed. A standard measure of drink contains 14 grams of alcohol.
What constitutes a standard measure of drink?
One 350mls of beer, 150ml of wine, or 40mls of distilled spirits.
Moderate drinking, we can say, is up to one drink a day for women and two drinks per day for men.
16. Reduce caffeine intake
Caffeine can temporarily raise your blood pressure, lasting 45 to 60 minutes. The reaction varies from one individual to another.
Some of us may be much more sensitive to caffeine than others. If you are caffeine-sensitive, you will benefit by cutting back on your coffee consumption or switching to decaffeinated coffee.
17. Taking prescription medication
If your blood pressure is significantly high or has not decreased after making these lifestyle changes, your doctor may recommend prescription medication. They work and improve your long-term outcomes, especially if you have other risk factors. However, finding the right combination of drugs can take some time.
Contact your GP about possible medications and what might work best for you.