Ask An Expert: Lowering Blood Pressure Without Pills
“I was recently diagnosed with high blood pressure. I’d like to lower it without medications, if I can. What are the best non-drug ways to reduce blood pressure? Is it possible to do this without popping pills?”
Answer from Craig Walsh, M.D., M.P.H., cardiologist with Providence St. Vincent Heart Clinic and the Providence Heart and Vascular Institute, and Miles Hassell, M.D., director of Providence Integrative Medicine:
Making healthful changes in your eating and exercise habits is an excellent first step to dealing with your high blood pressure. Your efforts will show results in just a few weeks. Even if your levels don’t go down as far as needed, your drug therapy may involve fewer drugs and at lower doses.
If you haven’t already done this, it’s also a good idea to talk with your doctor about all of the prescription and over-the-counter medicines you take. Some, including common pain relievers and decongestants, can elevate blood pressure.
Research studies have shown that the following strategies can lead to modest but lasting decreases in blood pressure. The payoff is big: Healthy blood pressure reduces your risk of stroke, heart failure and kidney disease.
For strength training, use light weights and do multiple repetitions. Your muscles should tire after 10 to 15 reps.
Physical activity yields a two-fer benefit for your blood pressure: Exercise is great for arterial health, and it builds muscle and burns stored fat to keep you at an ideal weight.
How Long Does It Take To Lower Blood Pressure
Each and every one of us is different. So, how long it takes to lower your blood pressure will depend on how high your levels are, the medication you’re taking to lower it, and how carefully you’re following the treatment plan prescribed for you by your doctor. Read more about how to safely lower your blood pressure in this overview.
Verywell / Mayya Agapova
What Is The Potency Of The Herbs
As mentioned before, its important to rely on trusted professionals to determine the quality and potency of herbs, along with your own research on processing and manufacturing practices.
According to Mannur, verya refers to the potency of an herb in the Ayurvedic tradition. She stresses that herbs are more potent than simply consuming food, and they should be administered in the proper dosage.
This can even be the case with common culinary spices, like black pepper, she says.
Mannur also says herbs that arent grown in their natural habitat might not be as potent as cultivated herbs.
Zappin emphasizes that finding the right herb for you is essential to success with herbal medicine. Dosage can often affect potency, but the point is moot if the herb isnt the best choice for your needs.
I appreciate looking to traditional methods and the intersection of quality and dosing. I also think that finding the right herb for an individual can be more important than the most potent, Zappin adds.
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How Can I Prevent High Blood Pressure
You can help prevent high blood pressure by having a healthy lifestyle. This means:
If you already have high blood pressure, it is important to prevent it from getting worse or causing complications. You should get regular medical care and follow your prescribed treatment plan. Your plan will include healthy lifestyle habit recommendations and possibly medicines.
NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Follow A Healthy Diet
A healthy diet with a variety of nutritious foods, in line with the Australian Dietary Guidelines, will help keep blood pressure under control as well as your cholesterol and weight.
- Eat 5 serves of vegetables and 2 serves of fruit every day.
- Limit your fat intake to 20 to 35% of your total energy intake. Consume healthy unsaturated fats instead of saturated fats.
- Reduce your salt intake to fewer than 4 grams per day if you have high blood pressure. This is less than one teaspoon of salt. Salt contains sodium, which is linked to high blood pressure.
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Start Lowering Your Blood Pressure Today
In many cases, high blood pressure doesnt have to be treated and managed with drastic lifestyle changes or medication.
Diet is one of the most important aspects of managing high blood pressure and its the one thing you have the most control over. Taking small steps now, can turn into big improvements and new routines.
Dont wait to take charge of your heart health. With support from your doctor and a little bit of determination you may find your blood pressure coming down sooner than you think.
Dont delay getting the heart care and answers you need
Drugs Vs Lifestyle Change
First, keep in mind that drugs have limited success. Most studies on diuretics and other blood pressure-lowering drugs suggest they lower the risk of cardiovascular events among those with blood pressure between 140/90 and 159/99 by 15 to 20%.3 The problem is, with this range of blood pressure, the risk of cardiovascular-related deaths has increased by 300 to 400% compared to people with normal blood pressure.
So, while treating hypertension with drugs is generally better than no treatment, it is far from a cure, asserts Dr. Fruge.
In fact, most research suggests that drug therapy to lower blood pressure is not likely to be as effective as eliminating the causes of hypertension, which include over consumption of salt, a sedentary lifestyle, and a high-calorie-dense diet, which leads to excess weight.
Whats more, drug treatment for high blood pressure frequently has annoying and sometimes serious side effects. Below is a summary of common medications for blood pressure control, and their common side effects.
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What Medications Are Used To Treat High Blood Pressure
Four classes of high blood pressure medications are considered first line when starting treatment. Sometimes other medications are coupled with these first-line drugs to better control your high blood pressure. First-line, pressure-lowering medications are:
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors block the production of the angiotensin II hormone, which the body naturally uses to control blood pressure. When angiotensin II is blocked, your blood vessels dont narrow. Examples: lisinopril , enalapril or captopril.
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers block this same hormone from binding with receptors in the blood vessels. ARBs work the same way as ACE inhibitors to keep blood vessels from narrowing. Examples: metoprolol , valsartan or losartan.
- Calcium channel blockers prevent calcium from entering the muscle cells of your heart and blood vessels, allowing these vessels to relax. Examples: amlodipine , nifedipine , diltiazem .
- Diuretics flush excess sodium from your body, reducing the amount of fluid in your blood. Diuretics are often used with other high blood pressure medicines, sometimes in one combined pill. Examples: indapamide, hydrochlorothiazide or chlorothiazide.
Causes Of High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure builds slowly over time. This is one reason you may not notice your symptoms. Unhealthy lifestyle choices like poor diet and a lack of exercise are factors that impact your blood pressure.
Other health conditions like diabetes and obesity increase your risk for high blood pressure.
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What Risks Are Increased By High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure increases your risk of heart disease, stroke and chronic kidney disease. If you have diabetes, high blood pressure also puts you at higher risk of complications such as nerve and eye damage.
Determine When To Take Your Blood Pressure
For most women, Dr. Zusman recommends taking two to three blood pressure readings in the morning and two to three readings at night, a few times a week. Don’t go overboard and take your blood pressure constantly. That’s counterproductive. “You become so focused on your blood pressure that every time the cuff comes near your arm your blood pressure goes up just from the anxiety,” says Dr. Zusman.
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Lower Blood Pressure With Beetroot Juice
According to several studies, beetroot has a positive effect on blood pressure.
According to this, 14 subjects showed that after consuming half a liter of beetroot juice, the upper blood pressure value fell by about 5 mmHg for about 24 hours.
According to Prof. Dieter Klaus from the Scientific Advisory Board of the German Heart Foundation, the nitrates contained in the beetroot juice are converted to
This lowers blood pressure.
However, since the scientist is not aware of any long-term studies on the blood pressure-lowering effect of beetroot juice, he advises taking the juice only as a supplement to, for example, drug therapy.
How To Monitor Your Blood Pressure
You can monitor your own blood pressure at home using a home blood pressure monitor. The American Heart Association recommends using an automatic, cuff-style bicep monitor. Make sure you buy a monitor that has been validated and with a cuff that fits properly around your upper arm. Then follow these simple steps:
- Dont exercise, eat, drink caffeinated beverages, or smoke within 30 minutes of measuring your blood pressure.
- Sit still with your back straight and your feet flat on the floor. Follow your monitors instructions or ask your doctor how to use it correctly.
- Make sure you check your blood pressure at the same time each day.
- Check your blood pressure two or three times each time you sit down to measure it. Wait one minute in between each reading. Be sure to track your measurements, either writing them down in a journal or using an online tracker.
You may be wondering how to lower blood pressure. Below are my top natural ways to lower blood pressure, and by the way, it should happen fast! Some plans can take months to see results. With my tips, some of which revolve around anti-inflammatory foods, you can see results in just one day.
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Doing This For Just Five Minutes A Day Could Make Major Improvements In Your Health
A 9 mmHg drop in systolic blood pressure can have a major ripple effect on your overall health and mortality risk. That’s because it correlates roughly with a 35 percent drop in your risk of stroke and a 25 percent drop in the risk of heart disease, NPR reports.
The device is not intended as a replacement for medication recommended by your doctor, or a consistent exercise regimen, and patients are likely to see the best results of a resistance-breathing routine when it’s used in conjunction with these other interventions. However, Joyner wrote in a 2021 editorial for the AHA that “it could be beneficial for people who are unable to do traditional aerobic exercise.” He added that, “taking a deep, resisted breath offers a new and unconventional way to generate the benefits of exercise and physical activity.”
Try Meditation Or Deep Breathing
While these two behaviors could also fall under stress reduction techniques, meditation and deep breathing deserve specific mention.
Both meditation and deep breathing may activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This system is engaged when the body relaxes, slowing the heart rate, and lowering blood pressure.
Theres quite a bit of research in this area, with studies showing that different styles of meditation appear to have benefits for lowering blood pressure .
Deep breathing techniques can also be quite effective.
In one study, participants were asked to either take six deep breaths over the course of 30 seconds or simply sit still for 30 seconds. Those who took breaths lowered their blood pressure more than those who just sat .
Try guided meditation or deep breathing. Heres a video to get you started.
Bottom line: Both meditation and deep breathing can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps slow your heart rate and lower blood pressure.
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When Treatment Is Recommended
Everyone with high blood pressure is advised to make healthy lifestyle changes.
Whether medicine is also recommended depends on your blood pressure reading and your risk of developing problems such as heart attacks or strokes.
Your doctor will carry out some blood and urine tests, and ask questions about your health to determine your risk of other problems:
- if your blood pressure is consistently above 140/90mmHg , but your risk of other problems is low you’ll be advised to make some changes to your lifestyle
- if your blood pressure is consistently above 140/90mmHg and your risk of other problems is high you’ll be offered medicine to lower your blood pressure, in addition to lifestyle changes
- if your blood pressure is consistently above 160/100mmHg you’ll be offered medicine to lower your blood pressure, in addition to lifestyle changes
Secondary High Blood Pressure
Some cases of high blood pressure are the result of underlying factors or cause and this is known as secondary high blood pressure.
Underlying factors include:
- kidney conditions, such as a kidney infection, or kidney disease
- narrowing of the arteries
- hormonal conditions, such as Cushing’s syndrome
- conditions that affect the bodys tissue, such as lupus
- medication, such as the oral contraceptive pill, or the type of painkillers that are known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , such as ibuprofen
- recreational drugs, such as cocaine, amphetamines and crystal meth
Occasionally, a rise in blood pressure can result from taking herbal remedies, such as herbal supplements.
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Safety And Side Effects
While side effects of cats claw are rarely reported, available information to determine its overall safety is currently insufficient.
The high levels of tannins in cats claw may cause some side effects including nausea, stomach upset, and diarrhea if consumed in large amounts .
Case reports and test-tube studies support other possible side effects, including low blood pressure, increased risk of bleeding, nerve damage, anti-estrogen effects, and adverse effects on kidney function (
The lack of safety evidence means that you should always use cats claw with caution.
There is insufficient research into the risks of cats claw, although side effects are rare. Certain populations, such as pregnant women or those with particular medical conditions, should avoid cats claw.
Put Some Dash In Your Lunch And Dinner
Dont worry were not back in gym class again. While dashing is indeed a good way to get some vigorous exercise, its also about what youre eating, too.
DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. Its a high blood pressure diet specifically designed to focus on foods that reduce blood pressure that is, foods rich in calcium, potassium and magnesium as well as low in sodium and fat.
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Pick Dark Chocolate Berries Or A Banana Instead
In addition to reading nutrition labels, consider switching up your daily treats by choosing one of these tasty alternatives:
- Dark chocolate. Dark chocolate has many flavonoids, a natural antioxidant that can cause your blood vessels to open more widely to support better cardiovascular health.
- Berries. Berries are a rich source of polyphenols, another kind of antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation and lower blood pressure.
- Bananas. Bananas have a lot of potassium, which helps counteract the effects of sodium and reduces tension in your blood vessels.
As with all things, moderation is key. Chocolate, berries and bananas still contain sugar and you dont want to go on a snack attack. But making smart changes to your snacking habits are easy ways to work in foods that can help reduce your blood pressure and satisfy your hunger.
How Is Blood Pressure Measured
Blood pressure is defined as the amount of pressure that is exerted on the artery walls as blood moves through them. It is measured in millimetres of mercury, or mmHg.
A more detailed explanation is provided below.
Two measurements are used to measure blood pressure:
- Systolic pressure – the measure of blood pressure exerted when your heart beats and forces blood around your body.
- Diastolic pressure – the measure of blood pressure when your heart is resting in between beats.
Both the systolic and diastolic pressures are measured in millimetres of mercury .
The figures are usually represented with the systolic pressure first, followed by the diastolic pressure. Therefore, if your GP says that your blood pressure is ‘120 over 80’, or 120/80mmHg, they mean that you have a systolic pressure of 120mmHg and a diastolic pressure of 80mmHg.
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Treating High Blood Pressure
Treatment for high blood pressure will depend on your blood pressure levels and your associated risk of developing a cardiovascular disease, such as a heart attack or stroke.
There are seven main risk factors for developing a cardiovascular disease. These are:
- having a high level of cholesterol in your blood
- having a family history of cardiovascular disease .
Blood Pressure Foods To Avoid
- High sodium foods: Sodium raises blood pressure avoid high sodium processed foods, pickles, olives or canned foods.
- Trans fats and Omega-6 fats: These fats increase inflammation and blood pressure and are found in packaged foods and conventional meats.
- Sugar: High sugar consumption is connected to high blood pressure.
- Caffeine: Too much caffeine can cause an increase in blood pressure.
- Alcohol: Narrows arteries and can increase blood pressure.
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Which Medicines Are Prescribed For High Blood Pressure
Some people will find that lifestyle changes alone wont be enough to control their blood pressure and so they’ll need to take medicines. Often, 2 types of medicines that work in different ways will be needed sometimes more than 2 are necessary.
Blood pressure medicines are typically taken every day. Many people will need to take them for the rest of their lives. The most commonly used blood pressure medicines are ACE inhibitors, angiotensin-receptor blockers, beta blockers, diuretics and calcium channel blockers.
Your doctor will choose the most appropriate medicine for you based on your blood pressure measurements, your overall risk of heart and blood vessel disease, and any other medical conditions you have or medicines that you take. Your doctor may set a target blood pressure.
Your doctor will probably start you on a low dosage of one medicine and review your progress a few weeks later. If you experience any side effects, tell your doctor straight away.