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- The best ways to lower blood pressure are losing weight, exercising regularly, and adopting a heart-healthy diet.
- Research has found that losing almost 10 pounds can reduce blood pressure by 3 to 5 points, and regular physical activity can lower blood pressure by 5 to 7 points.
- Depending on your lifestyle changes, it should take you at least a few months to lower blood pressure – and you will have to maintain those changes to sustain a healthy blood pressure level over time.
- This article was reviewed by Hina W. Chaudhry, MD, director of cardiovascular regenerative medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
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High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects as many as 75 million Americans. If left untreated, hypertension can lead to heart disease, heart attack, or stroke.
Here are the best ways to lower your blood pressure and reduce the risk of health complications.
How to lower blood pressure
Common causes of hypertension include a lack of regular exercise, a high-sodium diet, being overweight, and smoking cigarettes. Working to make positive changes in these areas can have a big impact on your blood pressure, says Sanjiv Patel, MD, and cardiologist at MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center.
If you’re overweight, losing even a small amount of weight can help lower your blood pressure. Shedding 10 pounds can drop your systolic blood pressure (the top number on your blood pressure reading) by as many as 10 to 12 points, Patel says.
For those with hypertension, research has found that regular physical activity can lower systolic blood pressure by an average of seven points and diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number in the reading) by an average of five points.
To get these benefits, Patel recommends at least 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity each day. This can be a combination of aerobic exercise – like walking, jogging, or bike riding – and strength training with low weights and high repetitions.
Reducing your sodium intake can also improve your heart health and lower your blood pressure. For reference, the FDA recommends that people with hypertension consume no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day.
To decrease your sodium intake, steer clear of processed foods and don’t add table salt to your meals. Research has found that the the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) – which is low in sodium and rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean meats – can lower blood pressure in adults with hypertension.
Patel says the severity of hypertension and a patient’s individual medical history determine the best course of treatment. These blood pressure levels range from:
- Elevated blood pressure: 120/70 to 129/79 mm Hg. Systolic blood pressure lower than 120 is considered normal – once it’s higher than that, you should talk with your doctor about lifestyle changes.
- Stage 1 hypertension: 130/80 to 139/89 mm Hg. Mild hypertension can typically be managed by losing weight, increasing physical activity and limiting salt intake.
- Stage 2 hypertension: 140/90 or higher mm Hg. If your blood pressure is above 140/90, you can usually manage it with lifestyle changes – unless you’ve previously experienced a heart attack or stroke – in which case you may want to talk with your doctor about medication.
- Hypertensive crisis: 180/120 or higher mm Hg. Hypertension this severe can be life-threatening, Patel says. You’ll want to lower your blood pressure immediately with the help of medication and also work on serious lifestyle adjustments over time.
How quickly you can lower blood pressure and whether it lasts
According to Patel, how quickly you’re able to lower your blood pressure depends on the lifestyle factors you’re addressing, and how high your blood pressure is to begin with.
For example, if you have moderate to severe hypertension and begin exercising regularly, you are likely going to see a sharper reduction in your blood pressure when compared with someone who has mild hypertension and already works out regularly.
“It takes a few months to see good results, although some lifestyle changes can make a bigger impact,” Patel says. “Blood pressure can drop by 10 to 20 points depending on what kind of change you’re implementing.”
Whether or not you notice any physical changes from lowering your blood pressure also depends on how you felt before. Many people don’t notice any physical symptoms of hypertension, Patel says, but if you are someone who experienced headaches or blurred vision as a result of high blood pressure, those symptoms should go away once it’s under control.
Even if you are able to lower your blood pressure, you’ll need to continue monitoring it, because it can creep back up as you age. Overall, the key to lowering blood pressure with lifestyle changes is maintaining those healthy practices over the long-term.
“Lifestyles changes need to be permanent, not just for two or three months,” Patel says. “Once you break that cycle, [your health] gets better – and then you need to sustain that.”
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