Nobody likes getting their arm put into a cuff that squeezes them so tightly that it cuts off the circulation. However, keeping your blood pressure at a healthy level is as essential as making sure that your heart rate is steady and that your cells are getting enough oxygen.
Some people have low blood pressure, but far too many have high blood pressure. Doctors frequently prescribe medication to help lower it, but there are alternatives. If you have high blood pressure and don’t want to have to take medication every day for the rest of your life, there are things that you can do to lower it naturally. Here are some tips on what blood pressure is, why it is such an important measure, and what you can do to bring yours down.
25. Blood pressure is an important indicator of overall health.
You hear a lot about blood pressure – you can hardly go into a doctor’s office without seeing numerous advertisements for medication to help lower it – and you probably get yours taken somewhat regularly. Many pharmacies have a station where people can get their blood pressure checked for free, and a blood pressure check is part of any doctor’s visit.
Measuring blood pressure is so important that it is a vital sign of life, measuring someone’s general health. Blood pressure that is too high is an immediate indicator that something is wrong and that the person may be experiencing adverse health outcomes. High blood pressure can be caused by many things such as an underlying condition, poor diet or exercise, and many more issues.
24. The top number of your blood pressure reading is called the systolic number.
Every time your heart beats, the blood that it pumps throughout your body press against the walls of your arteries. So if you had the idea that blood moves through your blood vessels the way water moves through a water hose, that image isn’t entirely accurate. Instead of there being a regular flow, there are contractions followed by relaxations. Each time your heart beats, it contracts in a motion known as systole. The systolic number of your blood pressure measures this force of blood against the arteries every time your heartbeats. Because this force is higher when your heart is beating, the systolic number represents the higher your blood pressure reading.
When you are exercising, your heart is contracting harder and faster to pump more blood so that it can replenish the supplies of oxygen and energy that are rapidly depleting. What happens then is your systolic blood pressure goes up, so taking a blood pressure reading right after exercise will indicate a higher rate than average. The best time to measure blood pressure is when you are resting because the reading you get will indicate how efficiently your heart usually is pumping blood. The number is in millimeters of mercury, or mmHg, based on the earliest instruments that doctors used to measure blood pressure. However, you don’t need to understand how old-fashioned medical equipment works; know that an ideal reading for your systolic blood pressure is between 100 and 120.
In between each beat of your heart, the arteries relax and wait to be filled with more blood. Then, it gets pumped throughout your body. This episode is diastole, and as you may have guessed, the lower number of your blood pressure. The diastolic number is the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats. This is the time when the heart fills with blood and gets oxygen.
When your arteries do not have blood pushing through them, there is less force working against the arterial walls. As such, the diastolic number is lower than the systolic number. Ideally, you want your diastolic number to be below 80 when you are resting. Anything above 80 is entering into the dangerous territory for high blood pressure. Speak to your doctor if this seems to be a consistent concern.
22. The two numbers together measure how efficiently your heart is working.
Your heart rate, or pulse, is an essential indicator of how efficiently your heart is working. A pulse below 70 usually indicates that your heart is getting enough blood out with each pump that it does not need to work too hard. Anything above 80 is a warning sign that your heart is not getting blood out as well as it should. It might be because there is a blockage that needs to be removed. Nevertheless, heart rate alone is not enough to tell how efficient your heart is.
Blood pressure tells how hard your heart has to work each time it pumps, so a blood pressure reading and a pulse are necessary heart health measures. If your heart can relax and contract without too much force, it will work efficiently to pump blood throughout your body. That efficiency will come out as a blood pressure reading that is in an ideal range.
21. An ideal blood pressure is between 100/60 and 120/80.
Some things can cause your blood pressure reading to be higher than your actual blood pressure. Of course, one is a blood pressure machine that does not work. Another thing that can throw your reading off is if you were recently exercising hard or feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Visiting the doctor’s office is often a stressful event on a good day, and that stress can turn into a high blood pressure reading. Still, that very natural amount of stress should not be enough to elevate your blood pressure by more than a few points. Exceptionally high stress, such as that due to a traumatic event, though, can cause your blood pressure to skyrocket. If your blood pressure is between 100/60 and 120/80, you will probably do well.
A systolic pressure between 120 and 129 is considered elevated, and between 130 and 139 is stage one hypertension (high blood pressure). One hundred forty and above is considered stage two hypertension, and at this point, your doctor will probably recommend medication to lower it. A systolic rate above 180 is a warning sign of an impending cardiac event, such as a stroke or heart attack. If you are anyone else ever has a systolic rate of 180, you need to call 911 immediately.
20. But many people have blood pressure that is too high.
Some people have low blood pressure, also known as hypotension. While hypotension can be genetic, it can also be a sign that the person’s blood volume is too low, that the person is dehydrated, or that something has caused the person’s arteries to become dilated. Blood pressure can also go into a hypotensive range due to fasting and not eating enough salt. Unless there is a significant issue such as too little blood volume, hypotension is usually considered a “good” problem. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is not.
Many people experience high blood pressure, often as a result of poor lifestyle choices. One blood pressure reading is not enough to diagnose hypertension. After all, several factors – such as a temporarily elevated level of stress – can cause the reading to be higher than a person’s average blood pressure. As such, a doctor will usually measure blood pressure over a while to diagnose hypertension. The doctor may ask you if you feel incredibly stressed to determine if additional stress may elevate your blood pressure. He or she may have you sit down and do nothing for five minutes so that your heart rate and blood pressure are considered to be “resting,” and then take one measurement.
19. High blood pressure can cause many fatal health conditions.
You may want to argue that blood pressure is just a number and does not mean anything. That is not true. The number associated with your blood pressure is one of the most important indicators of overall health because it tells how well your heart is doing its job. High blood pressure means that your heart is having to work way too hard to get blood throughout the body. While you may not experience a fatal event due to one high reading, prolonged high blood pressure can cause serious health problems.
One of these is called atherosclerosis, in which the walls of the arteries harden. The arteries’ walls need to be flexible for blood to flow freely, but high blood pressure can cause plaque to build up against them to be rigid and thicker. Blockages can then develop more quickly. High blood pressure can also cause you to be lethargic and fatigued so that you do not have the energy to do the things you need to do. Managing your blood pressure – keeping it in a normal range – can help boost your energy levels.
18. Some strokes are directly linked to high blood pressure.
Strokes occur when part or all of the brain’s blood supply is cut off. While some strokes cause memory loss and behavioral issues, other strokes are deadly. The recovery period following a stroke can be anywhere from weeks to years, and the person may never recover a sense of normalcy. If blood pressure reaches dangerously high levels, a stroke can be imminent. A severe headache, nosebleed, shortness of breath, and ringing in the ears are signs that someone may be about to suffer a stroke, especially if blood pressure is above 180.
High blood pressure can cause another life-threatening condition in the brain, an aneurysm. Aneurysms form when the wall of a blood vessel weakens; it may balloon out, and a pool of blood inside can exert additional stress on the blood vessel. If the aneurysm bursts, the result is often uncontrolled bleeding. The person may die before anyone even knows that there is a problem.
17. High blood pressure can also cause a heart attack.
The weakening and hardening of the arteries caused by high blood pressure can lead to a heart attack, especially if the cardiac arteries become compromised. A heart attack occurs when the heart stops pumping blood, often due to a blockage inside the heart or a vessel’s rupture. It can also happen because of a bacterial or viral infection. The first symptom of a heart attack may be death; the person can die before realizing that a heart attack is taking place. Therefore, monitoring the risk factors for a heart attack is crucial to preventing one in the first place.
One of the biggest risk factors for a heart attack is having high blood pressure. If your blood pressure is consistently high enough that your doctor suggests medication, you need to do something to get your blood pressure down. If your systolic blood pressure ever hits 180, you need to get to an emergency room because a heart attack may be imminent.
16. You can do multiple things to lower your blood pressure.
If you just learned that you have high blood pressure, don’t panic. The dangers of high blood pressure are real, but fortunately, there are plenty of ways to lower your blood pressure. Doctors’ offices are usually full of material that talks about ways to lower your blood pressure – and for good reason. High blood pressure is a cause of heart disease. Lowering your blood pressure reduces your risk of heart disease.
So if you have a high blood pressure reading, there is no need for a fatalistic attitude that merely accepts the inevitability of poor health and possible heart disease. You can take action. Many things you can do to lower your blood pressure and reclaim your health. Keep reading for tips on how to keep your blood pressure under control. But always remember: before making any medical decisions, please consult your healthcare provider.
15. Medication has been proven to help many people.
One of the first things that your doctor may do after diagnosing hypertension is to give medication options. Medication can be extremely useful in lowering blood pressure, mainly if it is chronically high and in danger of hitting the critical mark of 180. Many people who take blood pressure medication see it as a cure-all that will relieve their symptoms, and as a result, they don’t take any steps to address the factors that are causing high blood pressure in the first place. As a result, they often stay on blood pressure medication for their entire lives.
As the patient, you have the option of refusing medication, though your doctor will only recommend it if he or she believes it is necessary. If you refuse medication, you need to have another plan to get your blood pressure down. Ask your doctor what you can do to lower your blood pressure without taking medication. There will probably be plenty of information and literature on things that you can do. And for a good reason: there are lots of ways to lower your blood pressure naturally.un
14. But lifestyle choices often cause high blood pressure.
High blood pressure can have many different causes, including genetics. Some people are predisposed to high blood pressure, and there is little that they can do other than taking medication. Moreover, blood pressure tends to increase with age, so people’s blood pressure rate often goes up naturally as they get older.
However, lifestyle choices are known to have a marked effect on blood pressure. People who regularly do not get enough sleep tend to have a higher blood pressure than those who prioritize getting enough sleep. Eating a lot of fast food, drinking soda, and engaging in a hectic daily schedule all are factors that cause blood pressure to go up. It may seem easier to grab some fast food, but in the long term that can have serious health consequences.
13. Adjusting your lifestyle can naturally lower your blood pressure.
If you want to lower your blood pressure without going on medication, the good news is that this goal is entirely feasible. The bad news is that achieving this goal will include making many lifestyle choices that may dramatically alter your daily schedule. You will probably have to start cooking at home from scratch instead of conveniently going to McDonald’s or Burger King on the way home from work. Maybe you should stop relying on coffee to get you through the day and instead start getting to bed on top and eating foods that provide natural energy without caffeine.
Furthermore, you might have to start cutting activities out of your life that is causing you stress. Lowering your blood pressure naturally can entail a complete overhaul of the lifestyle that you have come to know and appreciate. There is a cost, but the payoff is improved health and well-being. Furthermore, without having to be on medication for the rest of your life.
12. Make sure that you take time to exercise most days.
Many people do not exercise, some because they think that exercise means that they have to join a gym and wake up an hour earlier to get there before work. Some people don’t want to get hot and sweaty, and many just do not realize how essential exercise is to overall health. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to developing an exercise routine. Some people join a gym and manage to find the time to get a good workout several times a week. Other people join a gym at New Year’s, go there two times, and then forget their membership altogether.
Some people enjoy going for long walks outside. Other people do not like getting hot, and plenty of people live in areas that are too dangerous to walk around without a bodyguard. Some join an adult sports team, and others lack coordination so much that they cannot play T-ball. The important thing is that you find an exercise regimen that works for you. Maybe a video workout, such as a collection of Tae-Bo, Zumba, or P90X, will suit your needs. Perhaps joining a Zumba class with a friend is what you need to have the motivation to dance off the calories.
11. Check your diet. Salt and sodium raise your blood pressure.
You are what you eat, especially in terms of blood pressure. Some foods, especially those that are highly processed, are known to raise blood pressure. Other foods – in their whole, natural form – can help get it down to a healthy level. Salt (which supplies sodium) is one of the enemies of healthy blood pressure. Many of the foods that we eat contain much more salt than we realize. In fact, it might be so much that many people routinely get more than twice as much sodium as their bodies need. As sodium levels go up, so does blood pressure.
Check the labels of the foods that you regularly eat to see how much sodium they contain. You may be surprised to find out how much sodium is in salad dressing, peanut butter, and cheese, not to mention frozen meals that are marketed as “healthy.” They may be low in calories, but you need to lower your sodium. Some frozen meals have more than 100% of your daily intake of sodium in only one serving. Possibly the worst offender with sodium is fast food. Check the websites for your favorite restaurants and see how much sodium is in their food. The amount of sodium alone may be enough to deter you from ordering any more fast food. Cut back on sugar too!
Alcohol is right up there with salt and sugar in raising blood pressure and keeping it high. Drinking a glass of red wine at the end of the day can be an excellent way to unwind while ingesting healthy polyphenols — high-powered antioxidants. However, anything more than one serving of alcohol per day can raise blood pressure. One bottle of beer can be two full servings of alcohol, so check the label and make sure that you are not consuming too much.
If alcohol is an integral part of your life, reducing it to lower your blood pressure will certainly be a challenge. After all, making lifestyle changes means that, well, your lifestyle is going to change. The result will be worth the effort, though, because lower blood pressure will lead to overall health and well-being.
Caffeine contributes to high blood pressure on real fronts. One front is the simple fact that caffeine is a drug that activates the nervous system to go into overdrive. Elevated nerve activity leads to high blood pressure. It is one reason why people who do not usually drink coffee often report that they feel their heart racing after drinking a cup. The other front is that too much caffeine will keep you from sleeping, and getting enough sleep is critical in maintaining healthy blood pressure. One of your brain’s jobs is that it regulates your organs’ function, including your heart. You are not consciously aware of how your brain is always telling your heart to beat, but this is still happening.
Sleep resets your brain so that it can do its job better, much like restarting your computer fixes almost any problem you were having with it. When you do not get enough sleep, your brain is less able to regulate your heartbeat, and it may become erratic. Not getting enough sleep is also associated with higher levels of stress, another contributor to hypertension. Think about the nights when you are unable to sleep. You are probably not lying wide awake, thinking about how wonderful life is and all of the nice things that will happen to you over the next few things. No, you are probably anxious and overwrought about everything that has gone wrong and the things that may go wrong in the near future.
Green tea does have caffeine – much less than coffee – but its health benefits far outweigh any adverse outcomes associated with the caffeine. Green tea has some of the most potent antioxidants of any food or beverage you could consume, and it can lower your blood pressure. If you are used to drinking a cup of coffee in the afternoon to help you stay awake through the afternoon slog, try swapping it out for a cup of green tea. In addition to the bit of caffeine, the natural chemicals in green tea will boost your focus and give you the jolt of energy that you were looking for.
What’s even more helpful for your blood pressure is to have a handful of berries with green tea. If you are looking for an afternoon snack, try berries with yogurt and a cup of green tea. You could also make a smoothie out of green tea and berries to replace your morning juice fix. Berries are high in polyphenols that help lower blood pressure and promote overall cardiac health.
Often, doctors will dance around the issues associated with being overweight and prescribe medication instead. After all, who wants to tell someone under their care that that person weighs too much? This notion is especially when you can solve the problem by writing a prescription. However, the problems caused by excess body fat are myriad, and one of those problems is high blood pressure. Excess body fat accumulates around the heart can put extra strain on this vital organ and cause it to work harder than necessary. The result is a higher heart rate, higher blood pressure, and a higher risk of heart disease.
Studies have shown that losing weight, especially excess abdominal weight, can dramatically lower blood pressure. If you are overweight, losing five percent of your body weight can move your blood pressure down towards the healthy range. Losing eight kilograms (about 17 pounds) can lower your systolic number by 8.5 and the diastolic by 6.5. In other words, a healthy weight is connected to healthy blood pressure. Nevertheless, make sure that that healthy weight is maintained, you know, healthily, not by starving yourself or exercising to the point of exhaustion. A healthy weight carried through a balanced diet and regular exercise leads to better health outcomes, particularly in terms of your heart.
6. Swap out milk chocolate for dark chocolate or raw cocoa.
You may have heard reports that chocolate has many health benefits, but processing chocolate reduces those benefits to practically zero. As such, most of the chocolate you eat probably has an adverse health effect, meaning that the bad far outweighs any potential good. Milk chocolate is so heavily processed that there is nothing good left in it, and then so much sugar is added that the result will be elevated blood pressure. Plus, milk chocolate is usually designed to taste so good that you keep eating it without ever feeling truly satisfied.
Dark chocolate is different. While you want to avoid overindulging in massive quantities, dark chocolate has a rich flavor that will leave you feeling more satisfied, causing you to eat less. Plus, it is not heavily processed, so it retains the flavonoids you have probably heard about. Flavonoids are critical plant-based compounds that lower blood pressure by causing blood vessels to dilate. Constricted blood vessels are associated with high blood pressure, and the beginnings of heart disease, particularly atherosclerosis, but dilated blood vessels allow blood to flow more freely throughout the body.
Studies have shown that eating dark chocolate lowers blood pressure over the short term. Again, you don’t want to overindulge, especially if you are trying to lose weight. However, swapping out milk chocolate for dark chocolate is a small change that can make a big difference. If you enjoy hot chocolate, stop buying powdered mixes instead of making your own using raw cocoa that has not been alkalized. Hot chocolate mixes are high in sugar and don’t retain the cocoa bean’s flavonoids, but natural cocoa powder preserves these health benefits.
If you are a smoker, the single best thing you can do for your health – ever, period, hands down, end of discussion – is to stop smoking. There is nothing positive that you will ever gain from smoking. The adverse health outcomes include cancer, heart disease, and shortened life expectancy. Plus, secondhand smoke is probably destroying the people that you love most.
Every time you take one puff of a cigarette, you elevate your blood pressure. That elevation is not permanent, but by the time you get through one cigarette – and then another one on your lunch break, and then another one halfway through the afternoon, and then another one on the way home – you have caused immense damage to your heart’s health. Additionally, the chemicals found in cigarettes damage the walls of your arteries. Switching to light cigarettes won’t help, and vaping has been known to kill people even faster than smoking traditional cigarettes. Your best option is to quit. Quitting smoking will be the single best thing you do for your health, including your blood pressure.
4. Eat fruits and vegetables that are high in potassium.
While some sodium is necessary for proper functioning – you would become dehydrated without it because your body would be unable to retain any water – most of us get far too much. However, there is a little superhero who can help defeat those little sodium minions, and that superhero is potassium. Potassium binds to sodium and removes it from the body. To get the potassium’s hypotensive effects, you need to do more than eat a banana with your breakfast. Bananas are certainly a good potassium source, but adding a banana does not reduce the amount of sodium that you intake.
Furthermore, it also ignores the many other foods that are also rich in potassium. Sweet potatoes, leafy greens, oranges, avocados, melons, apricots, beans, seeds, nuts, and fish are good potassium sources. Instead of just eating a banana, also swap out a processed meal for one that you cook from home from potassium-rich foods. You will immediately begin lowering your sodium levels.
3. Practice deep breathing and meditation every day.
Meditation is a powerful way of helping to get stress under control and lowering your blood pressure. The practice causes your sympathetic nervous system – which is associated with stress – to switch off and your parasympathetic nervous system – which is associated with relaxation – to switch on. Deep breathing is a simple practice that you can begin doing every time you start feeling stressed with anxious thoughts. Breathe in for a count of 10, hold for a count of 10, breathe out for 10, and again hold for a count of 10. Repeat several times. You will immediately begin to notice that you feel calmer and less anxious as your parasympathetic nervous system kicks in and starts to override your anxiety.
Meditation does not necessarily involve sitting in the lotus position while saying “omm” repeatedly. You can meditate by going into a quiet space and closing your eyes for a few minutes. Intentionally dismiss any intrusive thoughts so that your mind becomes completely relaxed. Begin by meditating for five minutes at a time. You can work your way up to 10 minutes, 20 minutes, and more. People who meditate regularly have lower blood pressure because their stress levels are much lower. Stress contributes to high blood pressure, but the parasympathetic nervous system overrides that stress and promotes relaxation.
Many of us have daily schedules that are far too hectic to prioritize health and well-being. Eating a salad at lunch is hardly enough to compensate for the constant barrage of noise – telephones ringing, horns honking, children crying – and expectations that we must meet regularly. Always having to answer emails is not conducive to a lifestyle that seeks to lower blood pressure. Neither is a two-hour commute or continuously having to travel. If your job is causing you to lose sleep, in addition to creating mental angst all day long, you may need to make some profound changes to prioritize your cardiac health.
Quitting a job is a drastic measure, but one thing you can do to lower your stress level is turn off your phone at a particular time every day. Let your boss, coworkers, and clients know that you will not be available after hours on specific days because you need to prioritize your wellness. Look at other aspects of your life that may be causing you stress. If you are overcommitted to projects that you will not accomplish, you need to start pulling back. If you have too much debt and are constantly worrying about making payments, you need to pare down your expenses. In other words, your life may need a complete overhaul.
1. Make more time for the people who are important to you.
Replace the phone that keeps buzzing with time spent with those that you love. Turn off the phone and have a meal with your friends. For best results, ask that all of them turn off their phones, too. The challenge will be real because many of us are quite literally addicted to our phones.
Instead of trying to impress your boss by coming in on the weekend, take a mini-vacation. Go to a museum or take a long hike through the mountains. Refresh your mind and body while enjoying the company of a friend or other companion who goes with you. Replacing stressful things with meaningful things will require much intention and, at times, going against the flow of a culture that expects you to be always available to answer emails. However, the result will be well worth the effort. In addition to lower blood pressure and improved cardiac health, you will have an enhanced quality of life and better relationships.
Sources: “Understanding Systolic and Diastolic Blood Pressure,” by Richard Fogoros. Very Well Health. March 30, 2020. “15 natural ways to lower your blood pressure,” by Atli Arnarson. Medical News Today. July 26, 2020.