“Blood pressure management is 70% lifestyle and 30% medications. If you don’t make lifestyle changes, don’t bother taking blood pressure medications, because they won’t work effectively,” says preventive cardiologist Luke Laffin, MD.
How to lower blood pressure naturally
The term “lifestyle changes” implies you will need to change your habits to bring your blood pressure down. Broadly speaking, these modifications are natural — non-pharmaceutical — ways of lowering blood pressure. Six methods have been proven effective in clinical studies, and two others are recommended:
1. Eat less salt
“Cutting your salt intake is probably the most important way to lower your blood pressure. Studies have shown that a low-sodium diet has the same effect as one and a half to two blood pressure medications,” says Dr. Laffin.
The average American consumes 3,500 mg of sodium a day — far more than the American Heart Association recommendation of no more than 1,500 mg, or about one teaspoon, of salt. Because this amount is so strict, Cleveland Clinic sets the limit at 2,300 mg. “The difference in effect is only a drop of 2 to 3 mmHg,” says Dr. Laffin. “At minimum, we recommend lowering sodium intake by at least 1,000 mg per day.”
Because sodium is hidden in so many foods, avoiding sodium is difficult, unless you cook everything from scratch at home, never eat out and avoid processed foods of any kind, including bread. But it’s possible. “It takes about 10 to 14 days to adjust to a low-sodium diet; then some foods will begin to taste salty,” says Dr. Laffin.
IMPACT: If you have hypertension, limiting sodium to 1,500 mg a day should drop your blood pressure by 5 or 6 mmHg.