If you are someone who would prefer not to start a medication for your blood pressure just yet, here are a few ways you can try to lower your blood pressure naturally.
A normal blood pressure is around 120/80 which is systolic/diastolic. Low blood pressure is defined as 90/60 or lower. The chart below lists the high blood pressure categories.
If you are not sure whether or not your blood pressure is high, you can visit your local pharmacy or a grocery store with a pharmacy. Pharmacies usually have a machine with a stationary cuff that will measure your blood pressure. Symptoms of very high blood pressure include blood spots in the eyes, facial flushing, and sometimes dizziness. According to the American Heart Association, headaches and nosebleeds are not usually an indicator of high blood pressure. In fact, high blood pressure is known as the "silent killer" because it can be nearly devoid of any symptoms at all.
If you choose not to do anything to manage your blood pressure when it sometimes runs high, then you are putting yourself at risk for the following:
Heart attack or stroke
Weakened and narrowed blood vessels in your kidneys
Thickened, narrowed or torn blood vessels in the eyes
Metabolic syndrome, which increases your risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke
Trouble with memory or understanding
There are a number of ways you can help lower your blood pressure naturally - without starting a medication. However, if you attempt these nutrition and lifestyle interventions and regularly check your blood pressure and find it is still high, then you will want to notify your physician to find the best way to manage your blood pressure. It's just not worth having a stroke, or ruining your kidney function forever in an attempt to avoid medication.
6 Ways to Naturally Lower Blood Pressure
1) Consume Plant-Based Dietary Nitrates
I know what you are you thinking, "Nitrates, aren't those bad?" The answer is yes - if you are referring nitrates used to cure and preserve meats. I myself choose to purchase nitrate-free meats. Buying nitrate-free meat is step toward better health, because you will be avoiding sodium nitrate, potassium nitrate which can actually increase your blood pressure.
Plant-based nitrates are essential when it comes to naturally lowering your blood pressure. They work with the enzymes that line your blood vessels to produce Nitric Oxide (NO) which is a well-known vasodilator. Vasodilators are substances that cause your blood vessels to relax and open, and thereby decrease your blood pressure. When your blood vessels are dilated, your heart does not have to work as hard to pump blood throughout your body.
Here are a few foods that really pack a punch when it comes to plant-based nitrates.
Edge Hill University performed a study published in 2016 with beetroot juice - and found that volunteers who consumed just over 2oz (70mL) of beet juice (which contained 400mg of nitrates) were able to complete more repetitions of a strength exercise before failure than individuals taking a placebo. That's because of the increased blood flow associated with consuming dietary nitrates.
An easy-to-grow garden favorite, radishes are another root vegetable that is rich in dietary nitrates that have the potential to lower blood pressure naturally.
See the list of foods below that contain more dietary nitrate bang for your buck.
List of Foods that Contain Dietary Nitrates
Copyright: Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2013 Mar; 75(3): 677–696.
As if we really needed another reason to choose more leafy greens! Getting 5-6 servings of fruits and vegetables each day will help lower your blood pressure naturally. Check out the DASH diet for more dietary ways to reduce your blood pressure naturally.
Other ingredients known to help decrease high blood pressure naturally include L-Arginine and L-Citrulline. These work through the enzyme system known as endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS). This enzyme system needs certain molecules to work, and L-Arginine and L-Citrulline provide a substrate for eNOS to work its magic on high blood pressure. A few food sources of L-Arginine include nuts, seeds, and legumes. Food sources of L-Citrulline include watermelon, cucumber, pumpkin and other members of the squash family, and best of all - chocolate! Raw Cacao powder has been shown to improve blood flow by increased Nitric Oxide levels.
It's worth mentioning that the effect of plant-based foods on Nitric Oxide (NO) levels lasts for between 1-2 hours. So it's important to consume a variety of these foods throughout the day.
2) Deep Breathing
The technical term for high blood pressure is "hypertension". Hyper- meaning "high" and tension - meaning "stretched tight or rigid". This is exactly what happens within your blood vessels when your blood pressure rises. When blood vessels become more rigid and less flexible, the result is an increase in pressure on vital organs that have tiny blood vessels, such as your kidneys, eyes, and other capillaries throughout your body.
Deep breathing helps to lower blood pressure that creeps in due to stress, anxiety, and even following exercise. Taking a few slow deep breaths can help turn off the epinephrine (adrenaline) or "fight or flight" hormone cascade. Slow, intentional breathing help turn on and activate nor-epinephrine (the anti-adrenaline), and reduce stress-related cortisol levels.
This relaxation hormone released with deep breathing allows the immune system to work better, in addition to aiding the healing and repair mechanisms in the body. Added benefit: this relaxed state also promotes better digestion and absorption of foods.
Physical activity - especially cardiovascular exercise like indoor cycling - can help lower blood pressure naturally as well, with significant differences after just 8 weeks. The key to adding in an exercise program is to find something you enjoy. Take a good music playlist or a podcast along for the ride. Go on! Get movin'.
4) Lose a little weight
Losing around 5% of body weight has demonstrated the ability to normalize high blood pressure in individuals who are overweight. That means if you weigh 200lbs, losing 10lbs can help decrease your blood pressure when it is too high.
5) Reduce your Salt
Puffiness got you down? Reducing high sodium foods like process meats, deli meats, fast food items, and restaurant meals will help you lower your salt intake. Have you ever heard the science-saying that water follows salt? It's a well-known truth that where salt is, water tends to follow. The problem is: too much salt can cause water retention in tissues. Fluid retention is one cause of high blood pressure, and many blood pressure medications work to reduce fluid retention - such as hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ) or lasix. Making your meal just a little less salty can help you control your blood pressure without medication.
6) Add Potassium
Your body uses potassium and sodium to help keep direct fluids where they need to be. Potassium is usually found inside cells and helps with cellular hydration. Sodium is primarily found outside cells, and helps keep water bathing tissues and in your bloodstream.
You need about twice as much potassium as you do sodium on a daily basis. For adults, the recommended intake of potassium is around 3400mg each day. For sodium, the DRI is between 1500-2000mg for adults.
Foods rich in potassium include a variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as dairy products.
Try coconut water, tomatoes, potatoes, prunes, oranges, beans, peas, nuts, nut butters for extra potassium on the daily!
Try any and all of these action steps to help reduce your blood pressure - without taking a medication. If you find your blood pressure remains elevated in spite of making healthy changes, be sure to talk to your physician about the right approach for you!
Don't let your blood pressure remain elevated, as you put yourself at a risk of potentially harmful effects.
References and Links to Scientific Publications
Ingestion of a Nitric Oxide Enhancing Supplement Improves Resistance Exercise Performance. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27050244
Nitrate-Rich Fruit and Vegetable Supplement Reduces Blood Pressure in Normotensive Healthy Young Males without Significantly Altering Flow-Mediated Vasodilation: A Randomized, Double-Blinded, Controlled Trial https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6165613/
Vascular effects of dietary nitrate (as found in green leafy vegetables and beetroot) via the nitrate‐nitrite‐nitric oxide pathway https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3575935/
NO-Rich Diet for Lifestyle-Related Diseases https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4488823/
The Effects of Oral l-Arginine and l-Citrulline Supplementation on Blood Pressure https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31336573/
Effects of Slow Breathing Rate on Heart Rate Variability and Arterial Baroreflex Sensitivity in Essential Hypertension https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29718876/
Effects of 8-week of Fitness Classes on Blood Pressure, Body Composition, and Physical Fitness https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31933345/
Effect of a Modest Weight Loss in Normalizing Blood Pressure in Obese Subjects on Antihypertensive Drugs https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5644874/
Daily potassium intake and sodium-to-potassium ratio in the reduction of blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26039623/
Potassium - Health Professional Worksheet https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Potassium-HealthProfessional/