When you get a high blood pressure reading at the doctor’s office, it might be tough for you to understand exactly what impact those numbers can make on your overall health, since high blood pressure has no unusual day-to-day symptoms. But the truth is, having high blood pressure is a serious health risk—it boosts the risks of leading killers such as heart attack and stroke, as well as aneurysms, cognitive decline, and kidney failure.
While medication can lower blood pressure, it may cause side effects such as leg cramps, dizziness, and insomnia. The good news is that most people can bring their numbers down naturally without drugs.
First, get to a healthy weight. Then try these natural ways to lower your blood pressure without having to take a single pill.
Go for power walks
Regular exercise—like brisk walking—seems to be just as effective at lowering blood pressure as commonly used BP drugs. Exercise helps the heart use oxygen more efficiently, so it doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood.
Shoot for 30 minutes of cardio on most days of the week for low blood pressure, Williams recommends.
Our bodies react to tension by releasing stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline into the blood. These hormones can raise your heart rate and constrict blood vessels, causing your blood pressure to spike. But slow breathing and meditative practices such as qigong, yoga, and tai chi can help keep stress hormones—and your blood pressure—in check.
Pick potassium-rich foods
Loading up on potassium-rich fruits and vegetables is an important part of any blood pressure-lowering program. Potassium encourages the kidneys to excrete more sodium through urination, and that sodium excretion can help lower blood pressure.
Drink (a little) alcohol
Too much booze is known to raise blood pressure. But having just a little bit could do the opposite. Light to moderate drinking is associated with a lower risk for hypertension in women. Moderate drinking could play a role in heart disease prevention too, studies show.
Take up tea
Lowering high blood pressure is as easy as one, two, tea: Adults with mildly high blood pressure who sipped three cups of hibiscus tea daily lowered their systolic BP by seven points in six weeks, found Tufts University researchers. The phytochemicals in hibiscus are probably responsible for the large reduction in high blood pressure, the study authors say.
Work (a bit) less
While it might not always be easy to clock out early, try to leave at a decent hour as often as possible so you can hit the gym or have time to cook a healthy meal. Set an end-of-day message on your computer as a reminder to turn it off and go home.
Relax with music
The right tunes can help bring your blood pressure down, according to Italian research. Researchers asked 29 adults who were already taking BP medication to listen to soothing classical, Celtic, or Indian music for 30 minutes daily while breathing slowly. When they followed up with the subjects six months later, their blood pressure had dropped by an average of 4 mmHg.
Have a glass of milk
Dairy or soy—it’s your choice. Replacing some of the refined carbohydrates in your diet with foods high in soy or milk protein (like tofu or low-fat dairy) can bring down systolic blood pressure if you have hypertension or prehypertension, findings suggest.