Tips to Live By

How to Lower Blood Pressure Without Medication

Jan. 30, 2023 - Katie McCallum

Your doctor is worried about what your climbing blood pressure means for your long-term health, but what you may be most worried about is what it means for your daily life — including whether you'll have to start taking medication every day.

"High blood pressure, also called hypertension, places stress on the heart and arteries," explains Dr. Felix Thomas, cardiologist at Houston Methodist. "Left uncontrolled, this can eventually lead to heart attack, stroke and chronic health issues, which is why managing high blood pressure is so important."

The question is, can you control high blood pressure without medication?

Healthy lifestyle changes are always an important part of lowering your blood pressure, but are they ever enough on their own?

"We don't always need to consider medications right away," says Dr. Thomas. "In certain cases, making significant modifications to your lifestyle is sufficient for lowering high blood pressure, even reversing it altogether."

5 ways to lower your blood pressure naturally

Dr. Thomas' advice for lowering blood pressure naturally begins and ends with healthy lifestyle changes.

"These modifications are most immediately important for people who already have elevated or high blood pressure," says Dr. Thomas. "That said, it's never too early to implement these changes."

In other words, his advice applies to anyone falling short of a healthy lifestyle — whether or not your blood pressure numbers need work just yet.

1. Increase your physical activity

"Inactivity leads to high blood pressure over time," says Dr. Thomas. "And most people don't exercise as much as they should."

Experts recommend getting around 150 minutes of aerobic activity each week, plus strength training twice a week.

"Physical activity helps stimulate blood flow, increase muscle mass and reduce fat," explains Dr. Thomas. "This not only improves your blood pressure, but also your overall health."

The amount of physical activity recommended may sound daunting if you're new to exercise. But it's okay to start slow.

"Even walking just 20 to 30 minutes a day can lead to significant health improvements, especially if you weren't active before," says Dr. Thomas.

He also notes that reaping the health benefits of activity isn't just about time spent at the gym. Overall daily movement is a crucial component, too.

"A lot of people have very stationary jobs, so increasing physical activity can also be just getting up to move more often," adds Dr. Thomas. "It's a simple thing you can do that will benefit you greatly."

2. Reduce your sodium intake

When it comes to lowering high blood pressure, the No. 1 dietary change Dr. Thomas recommends making is reducing your salt intake.

(Related: What Happens When You Eat Too Much Salt?)

"The goal is to limit yourself to less than 2,000 mg of salt per day," says Dr. Thomas. "This might not sound difficult, but I think what a lot of people don't realize is that most of the salt we consume comes from processed foods and eating out."

In fact, 70% of our salt intake comes from these foods.

"The best way to reduce your salt intake is to control the amount of salt that goes into your food by cooking at home," says Dr. Thomas. "This isn't to say you can't eat processed foods or go to restaurant anymore but reducing how frequently you do so can drastically reduce your blood pressure."

3. Maintain a healthy weight

If you're overweight, dropping pounds brings a slew of health benefits — including helping combat high blood pressure.

"Losing excess weight almost always leads to improvements in blood pressure," says Dr. Thomas. "Even losing as little as five to ten pounds can have a positive impact."

What you eat is a critical part of weight loss and healthy weight maintenance. But rather than trying a trendy diet, take steps to follow a healthy eating pattern instead.

4. Limit alcohol and stop smoking

Both smoking and excessive alcohol consumption cause a temporary rise in blood pressure. And the concerns don't stop there. Over time, both contribute to sustained high blood pressure.

If you smoke, make a plan to quit.

You should also limit your alcohol intake accordingly:

  • Men should drink no more than two servings of alcohol per day
  • Women should drink no more than one serving of alcohol per day


And, yes, despite the claimed benefits we often read about, these limitations apply to wine.

5. Keep an eye on your blood pressure numbers

Even if you're making the recommended lifestyle modifications, don't assume you're in the clear. Many factors affect a person's blood pressure — including underlying health conditions you might not even be aware you have, like metabolic syndrome and sleep apnea.

Continuing to periodically check your blood pressure will help ensure you don't miss numbers that are continuing to climb despite your best efforts to make changes.

When lifestyle modifications aren't enough to lower high blood pressure

Depending on how high your blood pressure is, your doctor may recommend medications immediately.

For instance, blood pressure medications are almost always prescribed for stage 2 hypertension. That's when systolic blood pressure (the top number) is 140 or higher and diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) is 90 or higher.

"At this stage, a person's blood pressure is so high we need therapies to help bring it down effectively," explains Dr. Thomas. "But lifestyle modifications are still necessary even when a person is on blood pressure medication."

For stage 1 hypertension — systolic blood pressure between 130-139 and diastolic blood pressure between 80-89 — the decision of whether medications are needed or not depends on the person's health history.

"If they're otherwise healthy, we might start by considering some aggressive lifestyle modifications, really cutting back on salt and making exercise a priority," says Dr. Thomas.

For someone who also has evidence of clinical vascular disease — a history of diabetes, high cholesterol, chronic kidney disease, heart attack or stroke — blood pressure medications are often needed to help get the person's blood pressure under control. Here again, these medications work in adjunct to lifestyle changes.

"There's always the possibility of weaning someone off medications once a person's blood pressure is well under the target goal," adds Dr. Thomas. "This gets more difficult the higher a person's blood pressure, but it's definitely possible if serious lifestyle changes are made."

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Categories: Tips to Live By