How can I lower my blood pressure?

Emilia Klapp
Nutrition & Dietetics
You need to tackle this problem on several fronts:
  • Keep active physically.
  • Limit sodium (salt) in your diet.
  • Avoid a high consumption of alcohol.
  • Avoid stress.
  • Maintain an appropriate body weight.
  • Don’t smoke.
Dianne Zwicke, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
To help control or lower your blood pressure, your health care provider may prescribe one or more of the following:
  • Weight control -- A new meal plan may be the first step to control your blood pressure. Losing weight can also help you control cholesterol and diabetes.
  • Limit sodium (salt) -- Most of us eat much more salt than we need. You may be advised to avoid salty foods and cut down on salt in cooking and at the table.
  • Limit alcohol -- Ask your provider how much alcohol you can safely have.
  • Activity -- Even a moderate amount of activity can help you control blood pressure, weight, cholesterol, diabetes, and stress. Ask your health care provider to help you get started.
  • Medication -- If you are given a medication to help control your blood pressure, be sure to take it as prescribed. Don't stop taking it on your own, even if you feel great. If you have side effects or concerns about taking it, talk with your health care provider.
  • Stop smoking -- Cigarette smoking can increase blood pressure. It is also a major risk factor for heart disease.
  • Manage your stress -- High levels of stress can help lead to high blood pressure. If your blood pressure is already high, too much stress can make it worse.
Merle Myerson, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

Cardiovascular specialist Dr. Merle Myerson discusses some strategies that can help lower your blood pressure. Watch Dr. Myerson's video for important tips and information about heart health.

Hypertension, or elevated blood pressure, is one of several a risk factors for Coronary Artery Disease and hardening of the arteries (also called atherosclerosis).

Your blood pressure has two numbers. The upper number is called the systolic blood pressure. A systolic blood pressure less than 140 is normal. The lower number is the diastolic blood pressure. A diastolic blood pressure less than 90 is normal. Blood pressure slightly higher than this is considered mild hypertension and can be reduced by weight loss, quitting smoking and a decreased salt intake. Sometimes, however, medications might be necessary.

Six classes of medications treat hypertension:
  • Diuretics -- Also called "water pills," these medications excrete extra water and salt to lower blood pressure.
  • Vasodilators -- These work by relaxing blood vessels to lower blood pressure.
  • Anti-Adrenergic drugs -- Commonly called alpha and beta blockers, these medications block a part of the nervous system that can increase blood pressure.
  • ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitors -- These medications dilate (enlarge) blood vessels by preventing the production of angiotensin (a blood vessel constrictor).
  • Angiotensin receptor antagonists -- These are similar to ACE inhibitors but they block the effects of angiotensin rather than prevent its production.
  • Calcium channel blockers -- These work by dilating blood vessels by blocking the calcium flow into cells (which is needed to constrict blood vessels).
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Here are a few things you can do to bring down your blood pressure: 

Follow the Dash Diet - The DASH diet is a special diet that promotes consumption of fruits and vegetables (9 servings a day) and low-fat dairy products (2 servings a day), over red meat, saturated fat, sweets and sugary beverages. Adopting this diet can help cut off up to 15 points.

Limit Salt Intake - Reducing dietary sodium to less than 2400 mg sodium a day can drive your blood pressure down 8 points, especially if you are a salt-sensitive person. You will need to be a bit of a label sleuth because salt can hide in many canned, fast and processed foods.

Exercise on Most Days - Performing at least 30 minutes aerobic physical activity per day can help you drop up to 9 points.

Drink Less Alcohol - Excess alcohol intake can tax the kidneys. Men should drink less than 2 drinks per day and women (and lighter-weight men) just 1 drink per day (a drink is 12 oz beer, 5 oz wine or 1.5 oz 80-proof whiskey). Keeping within these limits can reduce blood pressure by 4 points.

Normalize Body Weight - Keeping your body mass index less than 30 can lower blood pressure enough to pull you out of the danger zone. If you are overweight and lose 20 lbs, you can reduce your blood pressure by 20 points! Even a modest weight loss trims points.
Relax and Breathe - Listening to classical music, meditating and practicing slowed breathing like Qigong can lower blood pressure by a few points.

Take Prescribed Medications - There are many types of medications to reduce blood pressure. Follow the advice of your doctor and take any prescribed medications as directed, even if you feel fine. High blood pressure can exist without symptoms so you may not know when you are spiking.

Perform Self-Checks Regularly - You can do this with an at-home blood pressure measurement device or machine at your local pharmacy.

Get Routine Examinations - Keep your scheduled appointment with your doctor for a periodic pressure check or to discuss any issues you may have with your medication. There are many medications to choose from if you are experiencing side effects or if your current medication isn't producing the best result.

Control Other Risk Factors - Control cholesterol, diabetes and sleep apnea, all of which also contribute to high blood pressure.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Do the following if your blood pressure is higher than the ideal of 115/76 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury):
  • Eat a more nutritious diet with less than 20 grams of saturated and trans fat a day.
  • Eat nine (yes, nine -- it isn't that hard) servings of fruits and vegetables a day, including more than one serving of tomato sauce.
  • Get more physical activity.
  • Lose weight. Even ten pounds makes a big difference in your blood pressure and RealAge (physiologic age).
  • Stop smoking.
  • Consider cutting your sodium intake to less than 1,600 mg a day. This choice should be made with your doctor. Most patients find this choice very difficult, and, in my experience, it is not very effective for most patients.
  • Increase your intake of potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
  • Prevent inflammation by doing things such as preventing gum disease and enjoying olive oil.
  • Avoid stress and consider strategies to reduce stress, such as increasing social connections or using relaxation therapy, biofeedback methods, cognitive therapy, exercise, or yoga.
  • If your blood pressure is close to or higher than 130/84 mm Hg (my interpretation of where the aging "danger zone" starts) talk to your doctor about taking medicine to reduce hypertension, at least until the other (non-drug) techniques you're using are able to reduce your blood pressure to under 130/84 mm Hg all on their own.
Talk to your doctor to formulate a blood pressure reduction plan that takes your particular needs and concerns into consideration. Your doctor can help you decide if you should be on medicine for hypertension and, if so, the medication that would work best for you. Because several kinds of treatments are available and some may suit you better than others, you should ask about all of them. If you experience side effects or don't feel as good as you think you should, don't discontinue your medicine without talking to your doctor first. Doing so can provoke a severe aging event, such as a heart attack or stroke. Talk to your doctor about how to withdraw and switch to other treatments.
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For a healthy blood pressure:
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes every day. This helps lower blood pressure.
  • Eat healthy. Especially try to limit salt. Too much can raise blood pressure.
  • Don't smoke. High blood pressure is more common in smokers than in nonsmokers.
  • Stay at a healthy weight. Lose extra weight if you need to.
  • Don't drink too much alcohol. If you drink, have no more than 1 or 2 drinks a day.
  • Lower your stress. Take time for yourself. Do things that make you feel happy and calm.
  • Check your blood pressure regularly. Use a machine at the pharmacy or store. Tell your doctor if you think your blood pressure is too high.
  • If your doctor has prescribed medicine for your blood pressure, take it faithfully. You may not notice a change in how you feel. But the medicine is important. It can help protect your health -- and your life.
Amy Jamieson-Petonic
Nutrition & Dietetics
One of the best ways to lower blood pressure is to follow a DASH diet. DASH stands for dietary approaches to stop hypertension, and includes foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, high in potassium, low fat dairy and healthy oils such as nuts and seeds. Lean protein is also important.

The DASH diet has been shown to lower blood pressure along with physical activity.
You can change several dietary and lifestyle habits to help lower your blood pressure, among them your weight and physical activity level.

Obese individuals are twice as likely to have hypertension. Even a modest weight loss can have an impact. Losing as few as 10 pounds can reduce blood pressure and may prevent high blood pressure in overweight individuals, even if they haven't yet reached a healthy weight. Additional weight loss can have an even more dramatic effect. 

Regular physical activity can lower blood pressure even if weight loss hasn't occurred.
Ruth Frechman
Nutrition & Dietetics

Here are some easy ways to lower blood pressure. Number one is lose weight. Number two is be active. Did you know that your heart is a muscle? You have to exercise it to keep it strong. Number three is watch sodium intake. Limit sodium to 1,500 mg/day. These are great ways to get started and stay healthy.

Cindy Guirino
Nutrition & Dietetics
DASH (Dietary Approaches to STOP Hypertension) is proven to lower your blood pressure. It just requires you to make a commitment to eating more fruits and vegetables which contain the important mineral, potassium. Eat a serving of nuts most days of the week which provide the important mineral magnesium. Include fiber in your diet from whole grains and legumes, and finally choose low-fat dairy options like 0% fat Greek yogurt to provide your body with the important mineral, calcium.

The synergistic effect of obtaining all these important nutrients will lower high blood pressure.
A healthier lifestyle can decrease blood pressure, reducing the risk of related health problems.

Maintaining a healthy weight, eating a low-fat diet rich in fruits and vegetables, avoiding tobacco, reducing sodium and getting at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise most days can help keep blood pressure under control.

If lifestyle approaches are not enough, medications may be recommended. There are seven classes of blood pressure medications. The right drug (or combination of drugs) depends on each individual’s condition and other factors, such as diabetes. In some cases, more than one medication is necessary to control blood pressure.
You can lower your blood pressure by making lifestyle changes. This includes eating a healthy diet, limiting salt intake, losing weight, exercising regularly, cutting down on alcohol and caffeine and avoiding tobacco use. Dietary changes, such as those described in the DASH diet, have been shown to reduce blood pressure in 14 days, and losing as few as 10 pounds has been shown to lower blood pressure, as well. The DASH diet is high in whole grains, vegetables and fruits, and low on fats and cholesterol. If you are on medication, you must take it as directed by a physician on a regular basis. One common reason for uncontrolled hypertension is not adhering to medication treatment. You should also monitor your blood pressure at home and share this information with your physician.
Harris H. McIlwain, MD
Here's what you can do to lower your blood pressure:
  1. control your weight -- even losing five to ten pounds can significantly reduce blood pressure.
  2. begin a regular exercise program
  3. manage stress
  4. reduce excess alcohol intake
  5. have an adequate intake of potassium and calcium
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Kelly Traver
Internal Medicine
To lower your blood pressure (BP), lose excess weight, exercise, minimize your salt intake, and avoid excess alcohol consumption. A diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains also lowers blood pressure. This type of diet is called the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. Take medication if needed. Don't neglect sleep, and avoid stress. Lack of sleep raises blood pressure, and so does stress. If you have high or borderline high blood pressure, buy a digital blood pressure cuff from a local pharmacy and get into the habit of checking your blood pressure regularly. Keep a log of your blood pressure.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.