In the United States, 1 in every 3 adults has high blood pressure. Only about half of these people have their high blood pressure under control. Hypertension is a growing problem and can be caused by a number of factors including stress, high sodium intake, obesity, lack of physical activity, and smoking.
Fortunately, there are easy and natural methods for how to lower blood pressure quickly. In fact, right now, as you’re reading this article, you could begin taking steps to lower your blood pressure. Read on to find out how.
What is a good blood pressure
It’s essential to understand what a good blood pressure range should look like. Blood pressure is the measure of the pressure that blood exerts against blood vessels as it travels through the body. Many things can increase this pressure, including a higher blood volume, more blood flow coming from the heart, and hardened blood vessels due to age or lifestyle.
Blood pressure readings are recorded using two numbers, such as 120/88 mm Hg. The top number (in our case 120) is what is known as the “systolic blood pressure”, and measures the pressure of blood against vessels when your heart is pumping. The bottom number (in our case 88) is what is known as the “diastolic blood pressure”, the blood pressure levels measured when your heart is resting in between pumps. According to this chart from the American Heart Association, the healthy and unhealthy ranges for blood pressure are:
The tricky part about having unhealthy, high blood pressure is that it does not produce any symptoms until it is too late. High blood pressure rears its ugly head in serious conditions including stroke and heart attacks. That’s why it’s important to get your blood pressure checked regularly. Even blood pressure readings slightly above normal, that is between 120/80 mm HG and 139/89 mm HG, is known as “prehypertension” and is a risk factor for hypertension (that is, high blood pressure). It’s important to take immediate steps toward lowering your blood pressure if you find that your readings are outside the normal range.
How to lower blood pressure quickly: immediate steps you can take, starting today.
Deep Breathing and Relaxation
There are several ways you can lower blood pressure naturally. One way, believe it or not, is through breathing exercises. In fact, the FDA has approved a non-drug treatment for hypertension, which is a breathing training device called RESPeRATE. The devices teaches users to slow their rates of breathing to under 10 per minute and adopt to longer exhalations. Clinical trials have shown that daily RESPeRATE use lowered blood pressure, sometimes as much as a blood pressure pill would have. Researchers have found that slow breathing at 6 cycles per minute reduced blood pressure in their patients with hypertension.
But you don’t need to use the RESPeRATE machine to learn these deep breathing techniques. There is a multitude of free apps that will teach you to slow your breath and breathe more deeply.
Here are some simple steps to implement this technique:
- Try to find a quiet place, if you can – but this is not mandatory. The beauty of these exercises is they can help you find your calm no matter where you are or what you’re doing.
- Start taking slow inhalations and counting as you inhale.
- Exhale the breath from your lungs, and try to exhale for the same duration as your previous inhale.
- If you are new to deep breathing, you can begin with an inhale of 3 seconds and an exhale of 3 seconds. Try to extend the length of the inhale and exhale with each breath, up to 5 seconds for each. This will get you into the 6 cycle per minute pattern.
- Repeat the deep breaths for several minutes. Longer if you have the time (and patience).
There are a few easy lifestyle changes that you can make to lower your blood pressure quickly. The first one is cutting down on, or cutting out, caffeine. Caffeine is a substance that has been shown to increase blood pressure, although when ingested through coffee (as opposed to pills, for example) the effect on blood pressure is minimal – but not nonexistent. If you can teach yourself to get through the morning without your cuppa, it’s a good sacrifice to make in the name of healthier blood pressure.
Another super quick blood pressure fix is cutting out smoking. A single cigarette raises your blood pressure for several minutes after you’ve finished it. Smoking is highly detrimental to health in many other ways as well, so it’s a good idea to cut out regardless of blood pressure status.
Over time, you can improve blood pressure by reducing your sodium intake. Sodium, found in table salt and other salty foods, increases the volume of your blood, which raises blood pressure. A dietary approach which minimizes salt and is geared towards returning to or maintaining a lower blood pressure is the DASH diet. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It’s a healthy diet that recommends the consumption of minimal dietary sodium, while eating a variety of foods rich in nutrients that help lower blood pressure, such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
The typical American diet eats a 3,400 mg of sodium a day, but the DASH diet limits sodium intake to no more than 2,300 mg a day. It’s important to remember that sodium does not only come from salt intake: lots of foods naturally contain sodium. This is why the DASH diet is a whole food system, not simply a prescription to limit the added salt in your meals to a “dash”. Instead, the diet guides you to focus on a diet of lean meats, vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy. The DASH diet also works to prevent osteoporosis, cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
Longer Term Steps to Reducing Blood Pressure
Once you’ve taken the immediate steps above, you should focus in on a few longer term options to controlling blood pressure.
Weight is an important factor in hypertension, and weight loss is essential to reducing it. Being overweight causes your heart to work harder in order to send blood through your bigger body. This places more strain on your arteries, contributing to high blood pressure. Losing weight comes with a whole host of health benefits, including lowered chance of death from heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke…the list goes on and on.
Closely related to weight loss is getting increase exercise. Regular physical activity strengthens the heart, so that it requires less effort to pump blood. Maintaining a regular exercise regimen can lower your blood pressure by an average of 4 to 9 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), which is as good as some prescription drugs for blood pressure. You don’t need to do a triathlon to see results: instead, aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity most days of the week. This could be as simple as firing up a podcast and going for a brisk walk around the block.
See your doctor
Last but not least, it’s important that you communicate with your healthcare professional before you embark on any lifestyle changes to address your blood pressure. You may need your doctor’s guidance, or you may need to couple your lifestyle changes with prescription medication in order to see results. Either way, it’s essential to be under a doctor’s care.
As you can see, there are a lot of easy and natural options ways you can reduce blood pressure. If you’ve gotten a high blood pressure reading and are feeling panicked, remember that will only get your blood pressure higher.
Take a few deep breaths: this will not only allow you to calm down, but will help reduce your blood pressure. Then, start making a game plan with your doctor about how you can change your diet, exercise regimen and lifestyle to get back to where you want to be. Good luck!
Spire is a wearable device that tracks your breathing, activity and state of mind. It can send you reminders when you’re tense and walk you through guided breathing exercises like the one above. Learn more at https://spire.io