How to Lower Blood Pressure: Your Ultimate Guide

Fact checked by Olga Sadouskaya, MD
Clinical Pharmacologist, Chief Medical Officer

High blood pressure (hypertension) is a chronic condition that can cause dangerous complications if left untreated. This is why it’s important to monitor your blood pressure and to use safe, reliable methods to lower it if necessary.

When does your blood pressure need to be lowered?

Blood pressure measurements are typically presented as two numbers. The first number is your systolic blood pressure — the pressure against your arteries when your heart muscle contracts. The second number is your diastolic blood pressure, which is measured between heartbeats.

According to the American Heart Association, blood pressure that’s below 120/80 mm Hg, but not lower than 90/60 is generally considered healthy. There’s no need to do anything about it. Just continue getting regular health checkups and don’t forget to discuss any heart-related concerns (like an irregular heartbeat) with your doctor.

What is elevated blood pressure?

When your systolic blood pressure is between 120 and 130 mm Hg, your blood pressure is considered to be elevated. It’s not high yet, but it comes with an increased risk of developing high blood pressure.

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You probably won’t need medication to manage elevated blood pressure. However, it’s important to build healthy lifestyle habits so that your blood pressure can return to a healthy range.

What counts as high blood pressure?

There are two stages of hypertension. Stage 1 is when your systolic blood pressure is between 140 and 159, and your diastolic blood pressure is between 90 and 99.

Stage 2 hypertension is when your blood pressure consistently rises above 160/100 mm Hg.

There are different approaches to treating hypertension, and your doctor will make recommendations based on your specific case. Doctors will often begin to treat hypertension in the early stages by recommending lifestyle changes, which can be very effective at treating high blood pressure. Depending on your specific case and factors such as age, weight, and other medical conditions you may have, your doctor might also prescribe medication.

When is blood pressure high enough to go to the hospital?

When is high blood pressure an emergency? If your blood pressure reaches 180/120 mm Hg and doesn’t drop to normal levels within five minutes, you need urgent medical attention even if you don’t feel any symptoms. This condition is called a hypertensive crisis and can lead to a stroke, heart attack, or other organ damage if not treated right away.

How to lower blood pressure instantly in an emergency

If you experience extremely high blood pressure (anywhere above 180/120 mm Hg), you need immediate help from health professionals. They’ll give you fast-acting medications intravenously so that your blood pressure can return to safe levels as quickly as possible.

Other than that, there’s no reliable way to lower your blood pressure quickly. 

A medical emergency is not the right time to try home remedies.

The best thing to do during a hypertensive crisis is to lie down and try to stay calm until an ambulance arrives or you arrive at the hospital. Stress can make your blood pressure rise even higher.

Medication to lower blood pressure

If your blood pressure can’t be managed with lifestyle changes alone, your doctor may prescribe medication. There are many kinds of medication that can regulate blood pressure:

  • ACE inhibitors make your body produce less angiotensin, a chemical that causes arteries to become narrower. When you have less angiotensin, your arteries widen and blood doesn’t have to flow with so much pressure.
  • Angiotensin II receptor blockers prevent angiotensin from narrowing your arteries. The effects are similar to those of ACE inhibitors.
  • Calcium channel blockers prevent calcium from entering the cells of your heart and blood vessels. As a result, your heart beats with less force and your artery walls are more relaxed.
  • Diuretics make your kidneys produce more urine so that the overall volume of fluids in your body decreases. Less fluid in your blood vessels results in lower blood pressure.
  • Beta-blockers make your heart beat slower and with less force.
  • Peripheral alpha-1 blockers relax the walls of your arteries.
  • Central alpha-2 agonists aren’t used very often, typically only in cases of hypertensive crisis, gestational hypertension (high blood pressure during pregnancy), or when no other treatment has worked. These drugs reduce the activity of the part of your nervous system that increases your blood pressure and makes your heart beat faster.

Your doctor may prescribe just one medication or a combination of different drugs. If the prescribed treatments don’t work as expected or you notice serious side effects, your health care provider can try other treatment options. Medications can interact differently for different people, so it’s always best to talk to your doctor before taking new medication or making any changes to your treatment.

Is it better to take your blood pressure medicine in the morning or at night?

As a general rule, most types of blood pressure medication should be taken at night. Diuretics are an exception. It can be more convenient to take them in the morning because they make you urinate more often, and frequent trips to the bathroom at night can interrupt your sleep.

An older woman measuring her blood pressure

However, it’s a good idea to discuss the exact timing of your medication with your doctor. This is especially important if you work second or third shift and have to be alert at night. Many blood pressure medications can cause drowsiness and potentially interfere with nighttime work.

Home remedies for high blood pressure

Not everyone with high blood pressure needs medication. In many cases, your doctor will suggest that you lower your blood pressure with lifestyle changes and dietary choices.

How to lower diastolic blood pressure naturally

Diastolic blood pressure is the pressure measured between heartbeats. It’s the second number in your blood pressure reading.

In most people with hypertension, both systolic and diastolic blood pressure are too high. However, some people have so-called isolated diastolic hypertension, a condition when their diastolic blood pressure is too high and their systolic blood pressure is normal.

The best way to lower your diastolic blood pressure is to follow your doctor’s advice while applying the lifestyle changes that will improve your overall blood pressure.

How to lower systolic blood pressure naturally

Systolic blood pressure is measured when your heart contracts. It’s the first, higher number in a blood pressure reading.

Some people develop high systolic blood pressure while their diastolic blood pressure remains normal. This can be caused by age or underlying medical conditions.

High systolic blood pressure is treated like other kinds of high blood pressure. 

However, your doctor will take extra care to adjust your treatment so that your diastolic blood pressure won’t drop too much.

Lifestyle changes to control blood pressure

While blood pressure medications can be necessary and even life saving, lifestyle changes are key to managing your blood pressure. Some of these changes are quicker and easier to achieve, while others require a little more effort. However, a healthy heart is absolutely worth it!

Here’s what you can do to reduce your blood pressure naturally:

Manage your weight

Being overweight comes with an increased risk of developing hypertension. Weight loss is a very effective strategy to prevent and treat high blood pressure. According to the Mayo Clinic, you can reduce your blood pressure by 1 mm Hg with each kilogram of weight you lose.

A healthy diet to lower blood pressure

Try the DASH diet

Your dietary choices can affect all aspects of your health, and blood pressure is no exception. Following some simple dietary rules can lower your blood pressure by up to 11 mm Hg.

The best diet for people with high blood pressure is called Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH. It focuses on veggies, fruits, whole grains, lean protein, and using spices instead of salt. If you’re not sure where to start, you can find ready-made DASH meal plans online.

Cut down on alcohol and caffeine

Too much alcohol and caffeine can affect your blood pressure. In addition to this, alcohol can interact with your blood pressure medications.

As for caffeine, some people experience a dramatic spike in blood pressure after drinking caffeinated beverages, while others can enjoy moderate amounts of caffeine without noticeable effects. Try reducing the amount of caffeine you consume and see how your body reacts.

Be physically active

As little as 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week can have health benefits for your heart. You don’t need to spend all this time in a gym. Outdoor activities like a brisk walk in the park are excellent ways to strengthen your heart and improve blood flow.

Before starting any kind of exercise program, talk to your doctor. They’ll suggest safe ways to get started and can give you additional tips.

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Find ways to manage stress

Chronic stress can keep your blood pressure higher than it should be. Try to identify the areas of your life that you find particularly stressful and take steps to make healthy changes. You can also try meditation and other stress management techniques.

Don’t hesitate to talk to a mental health professional if your stress feels overwhelming and you’re not sure how to cope with it.

Key takeaways

Natural ways to lower blood pressure include losing extra weight, consuming less alcohol and caffeine, sticking to a heart-healthy diet, being physically active, and managing stress. In many cases, these healthy habits will lower your blood pressure and keep it within a healthy range.

However, you may still need medications to control your blood pressure. There are a lot of different blood pressure drugs, so your doctor will help you choose the best treatments for you.

Managing your blood pressure is an important aspect of keeping yourself healthy. While there’s no magic pill that will lower your blood pressure permanently, you can manage it successfully for many years to come.

November 3, 2022