10 natural ways to lower blood pressure

High blood pressure – also known as hypertension – is a common health condition, and in the UK a third of adults suffer from it, sometimes without even realising it. High blood pressure often has no symptoms, and for this reason, it is also known as the “silent killer”. Though that phrase might seem a bit dramatic, having high blood pressure can increase your chances of having a heart attack or stroke.

If you suffer from high blood pressure, you might already be taking medication prescribed by your doctor – but there are also many lifestyle changes you can make that may help too. So, here’s everything you need to know about blood pressure and how you can lower it naturally.

1. What is normal blood pressure?

First things first, what actually is high blood pressure – and what is normal blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the measure of the force of your blood inside your arteries, and when the force is too high, it can weaken your heart and damage your arteries. This can increase your risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke, and kidney disease.

Blood pressure is recorded using two numbers; both of which are measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg). The systolic pressure is the higher number, and this represents the force that your heart pumps blood around your body. The diastolic pressure is the lower number, and this represents the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels.

Normal blood pressure can vary from 90/60 to 120/80, and if your blood pressure is high (140/90 or more) for more than a few weeks, your doctor will probably diagnose you with high blood pressure and may recommend that you take medication. The easiest way to measure your blood pressure is to book an appointment at a pharmacy – you can find your local one on the NHS website.

You could also consider buying your own blood pressure monitor, so you can keep an eye on it at home. Just make sure it’s approved for use in the UK. The British and Irish Hypertension Society has a list of validated blood pressure monitors for home use, which you can find here.

As well as taking medication, there are lots of things you can do to help lower blood pressure naturally – and more good news is that these steps will likely boost your overall health and fitness, too.

1. Lose weight

If you’re overweight, one of the best things you can do to lower your blood pressure is to lose those extra pounds. Blood pressure tends to increase as weight increases, and if you’re overweight, losing even a small amount of weight can make a difference; for each kilogram of weight you lose, you can reduce your blood pressure by about one millimetre of mercury (mm Hg).

Aside from dropping any excess weight, it’s also a good idea to watch your waistline. The fat around our waist is called visceral fat, and having too much of it can increase the risk of high blood pressure. Generally speaking, men should try to make sure their waist measures less than 40 inches, and women should aim for less than 35 inches.

To get some ideas for healthy meals and snacks, you may want to read our articles, 14 quick and healthy snack ideas and 12 healthy recipe ideas.

2. Exercise regularly

We all know that doing regular exercise is good for our health, and when it comes to lowering blood pressure, it’s just as effective. When you exercise, your heart becomes stronger and better at pumping blood around your body, which helps lower the pressure in your arteries.

Just 150 minutes of moderate exercise helps lower your blood pressure and boost heart health. According to research by the National Walkers’ Health Study, exercising even more than this will further lower your blood pressure.

You don’t have to run marathons or pump iron at the gym to see the benefits; moderate aerobic exercise like brisk walking, cycling, swimming or dancing can all help. A 2013 study of sedentary older adults found that those who did moderate aerobic exercise on average lowered their blood pressure by 3.9% systolic and 4.5% diastolic – results that are just as good as blood pressure medications.

For inspiration on how to get active and increase your fitness, check out the general health section of the website.

3. Reduce your sodium intake

According to many doctors, reducing your sodium intake is one of the most important ways to lower your blood pressure – and studies show that a low-sodium diet has the same effect as blood pressure medication. Many studies show there’s a link between high sodium intake and high blood pressure, as well as heart conditions like stroke.

If you already have high blood pressure, try cutting back on salt and seeing if that makes any difference. Rather than buying ready-made meals which are often high in sodium, try making fresh food yourself, and season dishes with herbs and spices instead of salt.

4. Eat a healthy whole food diet

Eating a fresh and healthy diet that’s low in saturated fat and cholesterol is also a good way to lower your blood pressure. According to the NHS, a low-fat diet that’s high in fibre, like wholegrain rice, bread and pasta, and plenty of fruit and vegetables, also helps to lower blood pressure.

It’s also a good idea to cut down on – or cut out altogether – processed foods that are high not only in salt, but in sugar and refined carbs too. Examples of processed foods that are high in salt or refined carbs include deli meats, tinned soup, pizza, crisps, and other processed snacks – and foods that are branded as “low-fat” are also often high in both sugar and salt.

To find out more about the types of food you should eat to lower your blood pressure, you might want to check out the DASH diet. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, and this diet is rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains. It also limits foods that are high in saturated fat, like fatty meats and full-fat dairy products.

5. Eat more potassium

While eating any foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals is a good idea, it’s especially helpful to make sure you’re getting enough potassium. Potassium not only reduces the harmful effects of sodium in your body, it also eases pressure in your blood vessels.

The best source of potassium is through food rather than supplements, and consuming around 3,000 to 3,500 mg of potassium each day is recommended. However, if you suffer from kidney disease it’s important not to ingest too much. So if you’re unsure, speak to your GP about your optimum potassium level.

Fruits like bananas, apricots, avocados, tomatoes, melons and oranges are all high in potassium, as are vegetables like sweet potatoes, potatoes, mushrooms, peas, leafy greens and spinach.

6. Limit alcohol

Drinking alcohol in moderation isn’t usually problematic, but drinking too much can raise blood pressure – and around 16% of high blood pressure cases are linked to excessive alcohol consumption.

Studies show that alcohol can raise your blood pressure by one mm Hg for every 10 grams of alcohol consumed – and when you bear in mind that an average drink contains 14 grams of alcohol, this can have a damaging effect.

Drinking more than 14 units of alcohol a week can have adverse effects on other areas of your health, too, not just blood pressure. If you’d like to cut back on your drinking, have a read of the advice from the NHS.

7. Stop smoking

While red wine drinking in moderation is rarely problematic – and can even be good for heart health – smoking will always be harmful to your health. Every cigarette you smoke causes a temporary spike in your blood pressure, and quitting smoking helps your blood pressure return to normal, as well as reduce your risk of heart disease and improve your overall health.

The chemicals in tobacco are also known to harm your blood vessel walls, causing inflammation, and narrowing your arteries, which leads to higher blood pressure. Studies show that even secondhand smoke can contribute to higher blood pressure.

8. Cut back on caffeine

If you’ve ever drunk coffee before you’ve had your blood pressure measured, you may already be aware that caffeine can cause it to instantly spike. The precise role caffeine plays in blood pressure is still debated, and it can have a very different impact on different people.

People who are caffeine sensitive, or who rarely consume it, can see a stronger impact on their blood pressure – and other studies suggest that caffeine’s effect on raising blood pressure is more dramatic if your blood pressure is already high. However, more research is needed, and there isn’t enough evidence to show that drinking caffeine can lead to a more permanent increase in blood pressure.

Still, if you have high blood pressure, or think you might be caffeine-sensitive, try cutting back to see if it makes a difference.

9. Reduce stress

Chronic stress is believed to be a major driver of high blood pressure. When you’re stressed, your heart rate is higher and your blood vessels can become constricted. Plus, when you feel stressed you might be more likely to turn to other behaviours that can cause raised blood pressure, like drinking more alcohol, smoking, or eating unhealthy food.

While it’s difficult to eliminate all stress from your life, try to identify the main causes of your stress, and think about ways you can reduce these triggers, or deal with them better. Listening to soothing music has been shown to relax your nervous system, and studies show it’s a good complement to other blood pressure treatments.

For more information on dealing with stress, you might want to check out our article, 7 tips for coping with stress and anxiety.

10. Get more sleep

We’re only just beginning to understand quite how important sleep is for our overall health – and it can play a role in blood pressure too. When we’re sleeping, our blood pressure tends to dip, and studies show that if you don’t get enough sleep or are sleep deprived, you have an increased risk of high blood pressure.

The national Sleep Heart Health Study found that regularly sleeping less than five hours a night was linked to a significant risk of blood pressure in the long term. Getting six to eight hours of restful sleep a night can not only prevent high blood pressure, but can also prevent fluctuating blood pressure, which can be just as dangerous.

However, getting a good night’s sleep isn’t easy for everyone. If you feel like you struggle to get enough restful sleep, have a read of our article, 8 tips to improve your sleep.

Final thoughts…

Having high blood pressure can lead to various health problems and increase your chances of suffering from a heart attack or stroke – but the good news is that there are plenty of lifestyle changes you can make to lower it.

However, if you have concerns about your blood pressure, you should always speak to your GP, as it might be that controlling it with medication is the best step.

For more health information, why not read our articles; 5 tips to help lower cholesterol and 11 healthy heart tips.

Do you suffer from high blood pressure? Or do you have any of your own tips to reduce blood pressure? We’d love to hear from you! Join the conversation over on the Rest Less community forum or leave a comment below.

Links with an * by them are affiliate links which help Rest Less stay free to use as they can result in a payment or benefit to us. You can read more on how we make money here.

Get NHS prescriptions delivered for free with LloydsDirect

LloydsDirect works with your NHS GP to take care of your repeat prescriptions and deliver them to you, for free.

Make your prescriptions painless. Sign up today to enjoy easy ordering, free delivery and regular reminders.

Sign up now*

Comments

Loading comments...

    Discussions are closed on this post.

    Leave a reply

    Thanks, your comment has been saved.

    Sorry, there was a problem saving your comment. Please refresh and try again.

    Get the latest ideas, advice and inspiration

    No spam. Just useful and interesting stuff, straight to your inbox. Covering jobs, finance, learning, volunteering, lifestyle and more.

    By providing us your email address you agree to receive emails and communications from us and acknowledge that your personal data will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions. You can unsubscribe at any time by following the link in our emails.

    Enjoying Rest Less? Help us reach more people like you

    Leave us a rating Want to tell us something?