Lower your blood pressure without medication? Yes, it’s possible.
If you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure, your first thought may be that you’ll need to start taking medication. But that’s usually not doctors’ first resort. “Before starting a medication your doctor is likely going to want you to [make] lifestyle changes,” says Rachel Bond, MD, a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital.
Even if your doctor does recommend that you take medication to lower your blood pressure, it doesn’t mean that you need to be on it for life, says Dr. Bond. A deciding factor? Committing to heart-healthy lifestyle tweaks that can help lower your blood pressure naturally. Here’s how to get started:
1. Cut back on sodium. “Lowering sodium is quite important in a diet that’s aiming toward lowering someone’s blood pressure, because we know that a high-sodium diet can actually increase blood pressure,” says Dr. Bloom. That means not only avoiding table salt, but also packaged, processed foods, like canned soup and chips. Here’s how to flavor your food without salt.
2. Eat more fruits and veggies. “We want to be getting more fruits and vegetables which are really rich in potassium, and potassium helps to balance out sodium levels,” says Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN. Your doctor may recommend that you follow the heart-healthy DASH diet, which fills your plate with produce, nuts, grains, low-fat dairy, and lean protein, and focuses on specific blood pressure-lowering nutrients.
3. Lose weight if you need to. “If you lose about five pounds you can have a five-point drop in your blood pressure reading. So if you’re somebody that’s even in that borderline range you can drop your numbers substantially,” says Dr. Bond. Losing weight can also lower your risk of developing other chronic conditions, like heart disease or diabetes.
4. Get moving. Cardio exercises, such as running or biking, are your “first line of defense” against high blood pressure, says Joan Pagano, an exercise physiologist in New York City. “[Physical activity improves] the quality of your blood vessels so that that blood can flow more freely through them,” says Pagano.
5. Try yoga or another stress reliever. “You also might want to do some meditative work, like gentle stretching, or yoga—something that will help with stress reduction,” says Pagano. Here are more ways your body benefits from doing yoga.
Your body reacts to stress by making the heart beat faster and constricting blood vessels to get more blood to the core of the body. This causes a temporary increase in blood pressure. Although more research is needed on the link between stress and hypertension, stress is also known to contribute to heart-unhealthy habits, like eating junk food, drinking excessively, or smoking.
6. Quit smoking. “Smoking is another risk factor that we think about, it puts you at an elevated risk of having elevated blood pressure,” says Dr. Bond. Smoking is the most preventable cause of heart disease and stroke. Quitting will not only improve your blood pressure, but your overall health.
7. Avoid drinking too much alcohol. “For sure with blood pressure we want to make sure that people are watching their alcohol intake and certainly avoid excess alcohol use,” says Dr. Bloom. Stick to no more than two drinks a day for men, and one for women.
“If after a few months we notice that despite the changes in the lifestyle our blood pressure remains high, we then start to talk about initiating medications,” says Dr. Bond.
With all that blood pressure knowledge is fresh in your mind, test your BP smarts with this blood pressure quiz!
Dr. Bond is a cardiologist and associate director of the Women's Heart Health Program at Northwell Health, Lenox Hill Hospital and an assistant professor of cardiology at Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine.Michelle Weisfelner Bloom
Dr. Bloom is an associate professor of medicine at Stony Brook University Medical Center, a fellow of the American College of Cardiology, and a fellow of the Heart Failure Society of America.Frances Largeman-Roth
Frances Largeman-Roth is a nutritionist and cookbook author in New York City.Joan Pagano
Joan Pagano is an exercise physiologist in New York City.
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So before starting a medication,
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your doctor is likely gonna want
you to have lifestyle changes.
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What does that mean?
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Ultimately you're going to exercise more.
00:00:11,860 --> 00:00:14,600
You're gonna reduce your sodium intake,
or your salt intake.
00:00:14,600 --> 00:00:16,926
And you're gonna try to lose a few pounds.
00:00:16,926 --> 00:00:22,708
00:00:22,708 --> 00:00:26,043
lowering sodium are quite important
00:00:26,043 --> 00:00:30,890
in a diet that is aiming toward
lowering someone's blood pressure.
00:00:30,890 --> 00:00:34,780
Because we know that a high sodium diet
can actually increase blood pressure.
00:00:34,780 --> 00:00:36,563
we want to be getting more fruits and
00:00:36,563 --> 00:00:38,862
vegetables which are really
rich in potassium.
00:00:38,862 --> 00:00:41,740
And potassium helps to
balance out sodium levels.
00:00:41,740 --> 00:00:43,090
If you lose about five pounds,
00:00:43,090 --> 00:00:46,940
you could actually have a five point
drop in your blood pressure reading.
00:00:46,940 --> 00:00:50,980
So if you're somebody that's even
at that very borderline range,
00:00:50,980 --> 00:00:53,500
you could drop your number substantially.
00:00:53,500 --> 00:00:54,600
If you have high blood pressure,
00:00:54,600 --> 00:00:57,070
you definitely need to be
doing cardio exercise.
00:00:57,070 --> 00:01:00,570
Because that will help improve
the quality of your blood vessels, so
00:01:00,570 --> 00:01:04,050
that the blood can flow more,
freely through them.
00:01:04,050 --> 00:01:08,030
But you also might want to do some
meditative work like gentle stretching or
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yoga, something that will help with stress
reduction in order to be less stressed,
00:01:13,720 --> 00:01:16,690
which is also a risk factor for
high blood pressure.
00:01:16,690 --> 00:01:21,020
Smoking is another risk factor that we
think about that puts you at a much higher
00:01:21,020 --> 00:01:23,120
risk of having elevated blood pressure.
00:01:23,120 --> 00:01:26,060
For sure with blood pressure
we wanna make sure that
00:01:26,060 --> 00:01:31,130
people are watching their alcohol intake
and certainly avoiding excess alcohol use.
00:01:31,130 --> 00:01:35,410
If patient is in the early stages of
high blood pressure, for example,
00:01:35,410 --> 00:01:41,780
if the blood pressure is either borderline
or it's on the low end of hypertension.
00:01:41,780 --> 00:01:45,110
Usually we can either get away
with lifestyle modifications,
00:01:45,110 --> 00:01:46,980
meaning if the patient loses weight.
00:01:46,980 --> 00:01:51,138
If after a few months we notice that
despite the changes in the lifestyle our
00:01:51,138 --> 00:01:55,832
blood pressure remains high, we then start
to talk about initiating medications.
00:01:55,832 --> 00:02:01,641
Shaking the Salt Habit to Lower High Blood Pressure. American Heart Association. (Accessed on March 8, 2018 at http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/MakeChangesThatMatter/Shaking-the-Salt-Habit-to-Lower-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_303241_Article.jsp#.WqG4FpPwaL4)Managing Weight to Lower High Blood Pressure. American Heart Association. (Accessed on March 8, 2018 at http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/MakeChangesThatMatter/Managing-Weight-to-Control-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_301884_Article.jsp#.WqG6vZPwaL4) Managing Stress to Lower High Blood Pressure. American Heart Association. (Accessed on March 8, 2018 at http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/MakeChangesThatMatter/Managing-Stress-to-Control-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_301883_Article.jsp#.WqG83JPwaL4)