Fifteen natural ways to lower your blood pressure High blood pressure can damage the heart. It is common, affecting one in three people in the U.S. and 1 billion people worldwide. We describe why stress, sodium, and sugar can raise blood pressure and why berries, dark chocolate, and certain supplements may help to lower it. Learn about these factors and more here. Read now

A blood pressure reading measures both the systolic and diastolic forces, with the systolic pressure listed first. The numbers show your pressure in units of millimeters of mercury (mm Hg)—how high the pressure inside your arteries would be able to raise a column of mercury. For example, a reading of 120/80 mm Hg means a systolic pressure of 120 mm Hg and diastolic pressure of 80 mm Hg.
Cut down on salt. As you get older, the body and blood pressure become more sensitive to salt (sodium), so you may need to watch how much salt is in your diet. Most of the salt comes from processed foods (for example, soup and baked goods). A low-salt diet, such as the DASH diet, might help lower your blood pressure. Talk with your doctor about eating less salt.
Pre-eclampsia is a serious condition of the second half of pregnancy and following delivery characterised by increased blood pressure and the presence of protein in the urine.[23] It occurs in about 5% of pregnancies and is responsible for approximately 16% of all maternal deaths globally.[23] Pre-eclampsia also doubles the risk of death of the baby around the time of birth.[23] Usually there are no symptoms in pre-eclampsia and it is detected by routine screening. When symptoms of pre-eclampsia occur the most common are headache, visual disturbance (often "flashing lights"), vomiting, pain over the stomach, and swelling. Pre-eclampsia can occasionally progress to a life-threatening condition called eclampsia, which is a hypertensive emergency and has several serious complications including vision loss, brain swelling, seizures, kidney failure, pulmonary edema, and disseminated intravascular coagulation (a blood clotting disorder).[23][31] 

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a condition in which the force of blood against artery walls is too strong. It is common ailment, and it is common for many Veterans to hear about hypertension at their health care appointments. Over time, without treatment, high blood pressure can damage the arteries, heart, and kidneys and can lead to heart disease and stroke.
Blood pressure is measure in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and recorded as two numbers, systolic and diastolic. Systolic is the top number (also the higher one), which measure the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats, so when its muscles contract. Diastolic the bottom number (also the lower one), which measures the pressure in the arteries between heart beats, so when the muscles relax and refill with blood.
When a blood pressure reading is taken, the higher number represents the systolic pressure and the lower number represents the diastolic pressure. For example: 120/80 (120 over 80) in an adult means that the systolic pressure is 120 and the diastolic pressure is 80. As kids grow, their blood pressure increases from a systolic pressure of about 70–90 (as babies) to adult values (when they're teens).
Sodium (salt) sensitivity: Some people have high sensitivity to sodium (salt), and their blood pressure increases if they use salt. Reducing sodium intake tends to lower their blood pressure. Americans consume 10-15 times more sodium than they need. Fast foods and processed foods contain particularly high amounts of sodium. Many over-the-counter medicines also contain large amounts of sodium. Read food labels and learn about salt content in foods and other products as a healthy first step to reducing salt intake. Fast food restaurants also make the salt and calorie content of their food available to consumers at their restaurants,
Health care providers measure blood pressure with a sphygmomanometer (sfig-mo-muh-NAH-muh-ter), which has a cuff that's wrapped around the upper arm and pumped up to create pressure. When the cuff is inflated, it squeezes a large artery in the arm, stopping the blood flow for a moment. Blood pressure is measured as air is gradually let out of the cuff, which allows blood to flow through the artery again.

Changes in blood vessel function. The lining of blood vessels sustains more damage over time. This may be caused by oxidative stress or DNA damage, among other factors. With age, levels of the hormone angiotensin also rise, triggering inflammation in blood vessels. At the same time, vessels slowly lose the ability to release substances that protect or repair the lining. When the blood vessel lining does not work as well, higher diastolic blood pressures can result.


Hypertension is rarely accompanied by symptoms, and its identification is usually through screening, or when seeking healthcare for an unrelated problem. Some people with high blood pressure report headaches (particularly at the back of the head and in the morning), as well as lightheadedness, vertigo, tinnitus (buzzing or hissing in the ears), altered vision or fainting episodes.[20] These symptoms, however, might be related to associated anxiety rather than the high blood pressure itself.[21]
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
Stress hormones constrict your blood vessels and can lead to temporary spikes in blood pressure. In addition, over time, stress can trigger unhealthy habits that put your cardiovascular health at risk. These might include overeating, poor sleep, and misusing drugs and alcohol. For all these reasons, reducing stress should be a priority if you're looking to lower your blood pressure.
Remember that registered users of My HealtheVet can track their blood pressure as part of their Personal Health Record. When you are logged in, the Track Health "Vitals and Readings" section lets you enter your own systolic and diastolic numbers. You can also print out your data as part of your Blue Button report using "Vitals and Readings, Self Reported."

A hypertensive emergency, unlike the similar sounding hypertensive urgency, is characterized by serious, life-threatening complications. A hypertensive emergency means that the blood pressure is >180 mm Hg or the diastolic pressure is >120 mm Hg, and that end-organ damage is occurring. Signs and symptoms can include shortness of breath, anxiety, chest pain, irregular heart rate, confusion, or fainting. 
While stress itself may or may not affect blood pressure, how you cope with stress does. For instance, overeating, smoking and drinking alcohol in response to stressful situations are direct causes of sustained high blood pressure. On the flip side, healthier coping mechanisms like exercising, practicing yoga and meditating can all help lower blood pressure.
An electrocardiogram is known by the acronyms "ECG" or "EKG" more commonly used for this non-invasive procedure to record the electrical activity of the heart. An EKG generally is performed as part of a routine physical exam, part of a cardiac exercise stress test, or part of the evaluation of symptoms. Symptoms evaluated include palpitations, fainting, shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting, or chest pain.
^ Aronow WS, Fleg JL, Pepine CJ, Artinian NT, Bakris G, Brown AS, Ferdinand KC, Ann Forciea M, Frishman WH, Jaigobin C, Kostis JB, Mancia G, Oparil S, Ortiz E, Reisin E, Rich MW, Schocken DD, Weber MA, Wesley DJ, Harrington RA, Bates ER, Bhatt DL, Bridges CR, Eisenberg MJ, Ferrari VA, Fisher JD, Gardner TJ, Gentile F, Gilson MF, Hlatky MA, Jacobs AK, Kaul S, Moliterno DJ, Mukherjee D, Rosenson RS, Stein JH, Weitz HH, Wesley DJ (2011). "ACCF/AHA 2011 expert consensus document on hypertension in the elderly: a report of the American College of Cardiology Foundation Task Force on Clinical Expert Consensus Documents developed in collaboration with the American Academy of Neurology, American Geriatrics Society, American Society for Preventive Cardiology, American Society of Hypertension, American Society of Nephrology, Association of Black Cardiologists, and European Society of Hypertension". J Am Soc Hypertens. 5 (4): 259–352. doi:10.1016/j.jash.2011.06.001. PMID 21771565.
Blood pressure refers to the force exerted by circulating blood on the walls of blood vessels and constitutes one of the principal vital signs. The pressure of the circulating blood decreases as blood moves through arteries, arterioles, capillaries, and veins; the term blood pressure generally refers to arterial pressure, i.e., the pressure in the larger arteries, arteries being the blood vessels which take blood away from the heart.
Most people with high blood pressure are "salt sensitive," meaning that anything more than the minimal bodily need for salt is too much for them and increases their blood pressure. Other factors that can raise the risk of having essential hypertension include obesity; diabetes; stress; insufficient intake of potassium, calcium, and magnesium; lack of physical activity; and chronic alcohol consumption.
Before measuring your blood pressure, do not smoke, drink caffeinated beverages, or exercise for at least 30 minutes before the test. Rest for at least five minutes before the measurements and sit still with your back straight and supported. Feet should be flat on the floor and not crossed. Your arm should also be supported on a flat surface like a table with the upper arm at heart level.
Medicines are available if these changes do not help control your blood pressure within 3 to 6 months. Diuretics help rid your body of water and sodium. ACE inhibitors block the enzyme that raises your blood pressure. Other types of medicines— beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, and other vasodilators—work in different ways, but their overall effect is to help relax and widen your blood vessels and reduce the pressure inside the vessel. [See also the free government publication “Medicines to Help You: High Blood Pressure” (PDF) from the US Food and Drug Administration.] 

“Beware of the American Heart Association’s (AHA) 'Salty Six' — six popular foods that can add high levels of sodium to your diet,” says Rachel Johnson, PhD, a professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont in Burlington and the former chair of the AHA’s nutrition committee. The Salty Six include breads and rolls, cold cuts and cured meats, sandwiches, pizza, soup, and chicken.
When discussing blood pressure issues, the healthcare professional may ask questions about past medical history, family history, and medication use, including prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies, and food additives. Other questions may include lifestyle habits, including activity levels, smoking, alcohol consumption, and illegal drug use.
Some high blood pressure medications can, in fact, lead to weight gain. Common offenders include older beta blockers such as propranolol (Inderal) and atenolol (Tenormin). There could be several reasons for this -- including the fact that the medications can make patients feel tired and thus less likely to exercise. Minoxidil tablets (Loniten) -- used only when other antihypertensive medications have failed -- can also cause weight gain. Weight gain is also listed as a common side effect of doxazosin (Cardura). Diuretics are more likely to cause weight loss.
If you had previously been diagnosed with high blood pressure, the new guidelines don't affect you too much, says Dr. Conlin, as you still need to continue your efforts to lower it through medication, diet, exercise, and weight loss. "However, based on new information in the guidelines, your doctor may propose treating your blood pressure to a lower level," he says.
The American Heart Association continues to call high blood pressure the “silent killer.”  There are no concrete symptoms for high blood pressure.  Headaches, dizziness, and nosebleeds (epistaxis) are not usually caused by high blood pressure, unless the patient is in Hypertensive Crisis (systolic of 180 or higher or diastolic of 110 or higher).  Facial flushing may occur with high blood pressure, but high blood pressure is not the cause of facial flushing.  Factors such as spicy foods, sun exposure, cold weather, hot drinks, medical conditions, and exercise are more of the cause of facial flushing.  Although dizziness is not the cause of high blood pressure, it may be a side effect of some blood pressure medications.  A person in Hypertensive Crisis must receive emergency care immediately.  In addition to extreme blood pressure readings, severe headaches and nosebleeds, patients may also experience severe anxiety and shortness of breath.
Add olive oil to your blood pressure shopping list. The main reason for this benefit is because of polyphenols. These compounds are known for fighting inflammation and reducing blood pressure, according to UCDavis. That’s why olive oil is a key part of the DASH diet and one of the foods that lower blood pressure. Next, check out the 11 things you need to know about the DASH diet. 
If these lifestyle changes don't lower your blood pressure to a safe level, your doctor will also prescribe medicine. You may try several kinds or combinations of medicines before finding a plan that works best for you. Medicine can control your blood pressure, but it can't cure it. You will likely need to take medicine for the rest of your life. Plan with your doctor how to manage your blood pressure.
The findings mean that an additional 14 percent of U.S. adults, or about 30 million people, will now be diagnosed as having high blood pressure, compared with the number diagnosed before the new guidelines. This will bring the total percentage of U.S. adults with high blood pressure to 46 percent, up from 32 percent previously. [9 New Ways to Keep Your Heart Healthy]
Cut down on salt. As you get older, the body and blood pressure become more sensitive to salt (sodium), so you may need to watch how much salt is in your diet. Most of the salt comes from processed foods (for example, soup and baked goods). A low-salt diet, such as the DASH diet, might help lower your blood pressure. Talk with your doctor about eating less salt.
Eat potassium- and magnesium-rich foods. Potassium can help regulate your heart rate and can reduce the effect that sodium has on your blood pressure. Foods like bananas, melons, oranges, apricots, avocados, dairy, leafy green vegetables, tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tuna, salmon, beans, nuts, and seeds have lots of potassium.  Magnesium is thought to help blood vessels relax, making it easier for blood to pass through. Foods rich in magnesium include vegetables, dairy, chicken, legumes, and whole grains. It’s better to get vitamins and minerals from food, and a heart-healthy diet like the one we described above is a good way to ensure you get plenty of nutrients. However, you may want to talk to your doctor about whether taking certain supplements might help your blood pressure.
It is important to go to your regular check-ups with your doctor. Hypertension is a common condition and, if caught, can be treated with medication to prevent complications. However, if you experience any of the symptoms of hypertension, such as frequent headaches, recurrent dizziness, nosebleeds, shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, don't wait—speak to your doctor immediately.
Resistant hypertension is defined as high blood pressure that remains above a target level, in spite of being prescribed three or more antihypertensive drugs simultaneously with different mechanisms of action.[131] Failing to take the prescribed drugs, is an important cause of resistant hypertension.[132] Resistant hypertension may also result from chronically high activity of the autonomic nervous system, an effect known as "neurogenic hypertension".[133] Electrical therapies that stimulate the baroreflex are being studied as an option for lowering blood pressure in people in this situation.[134]
A blood pressure reading contains two numbers: systolic pressure and diastolic pressure. Systolic pressure is the top or first number in your blood pressure reading; it indicates the pressure within your arteries when your heart pumps out blood. Diastolic pressure is the bottom number, and shows the pressure in your arteries while your heart is filling with blood.
Don’t get too excited. Turns out that dark chocolate (at least 50% to 70% cocoa) can give you a boost of a plant compound called flavanol. As with garlic, this antioxidant can raise your nitric oxide levels and widen blood vessels. That can make your blood pressure drop a notch. It goes without saying that a little bit of chocolate is all you need.

Regular visits with your doctor are also key to controlling your blood pressure. If your blood pressure is well-controlled, check with your doctor about how often you need to check it. Your doctor may suggest checking it daily or less often. If you're making any changes in your medications or other treatments, your doctor may recommend you check your blood pressure starting two weeks after treatment changes and a week before your next appointment.
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