As a nurse, I frequently hear, “I don’t want to take any medications to lower my blood pressure.” And I get it!
The side effects of medications can be uncomfortable (especially the impact on libido).
Plus, taking medication is inconvenient.
But, I can’t safely suggest that you stop taking your prescribed blood pressure medicines — you’re at a double risk of heart disease or having a heart attack than someone with normal blood pressure.
However, I can offer tips to help you change your self-care and make healthy lifestyle changes to lower your blood pressure. Doing so can help you not need your blood pressure medication or use a lower dose, reducing the side effects you experience.
I know changing your self-care requires learning new information. And it can be overwhelming to see how vital eating differently is to lower your blood pressure.
But don’t worry. You can make time to care for yourself!
I made this FREE faith-based guide to help you start! Be sure to grab yours!
This article provides 9 suggestions to help you lower your blood pressure naturally with self-care. For your convenience, you can click on the links below or read the entire article.
Consider These 9 Self-care Tips to Lower Your Blood Pressure:
Treatments for blood pressure depend on the range of your blood pressure readings and may include self-care and simple lifestyle changes, a medication, or a combination of medications. (See the FAQs listed below for more information about Blood Pressure Ranges).
High blood pressure is prevalent in the United States; only 1 in 4 patients with hypertension have their blood pressure under control. But the good news is you can reduce the risk factors that can cause higher blood pressure with simple hypertension self-care changes.
Self-care can include everything from what eating approach you follow (your diet), how much activity you perform, what supplements you take, and what herbal or natural remedies you take or do to lower your blood pressure.
Follow Your Healthcare Provider’s Recommendations and Monitor Your Blood Pressure
First things first.
Follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations and take prescribed medications as directed. (Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about reducing medications if you desire to reduce the dose or stop using medicine to lower your blood pressure. DO NOT STOP TAKING THEM until your health provider tells you it is safe and appropriate.)
If you have high blood pressure, your risk of cardiovascular complications is double compared to people with normal blood pressure.
So, here’s a MUST-DO:
You MUST monitor your blood pressure at home – especially if you want to prevent the necessity of taking medications in the future, or want to reduce the medications you are currently taking.
Just a quick note you should not compare your blood pressure readings from one monitor to another. Every monitor will vary from another. Often, the activity required of going to the doctor’s office or just being at the clinic can increase your blood pressure reading.
The best way to read and track your blood pressure is to look at the trend over time on ONE MONITOR. That’s why having your blood pressure monitor is vital – especially if you want to reduce medications.
If you need a product recommendation:
I like this Blood Pressure Monitor. It’s accurate, reliable, highly rated on several consumer product sites, and stores historical measurements for two people.
But, if it’s out of stock, I also like this Blood Pressure Monitor for reliability and accuracy.
As the information on the Internet has grown, more unproven and some even harmful advice is available.
Be sure to tell your healthcare provider about the natural methods you use (or want to use) to reduce your blood pressure.
Doing so will ensure that what you are doing is safe and effective.
And, if you work with an herbalist, tell them about your high blood pressure and what medications you are taking. Some herbs and natural supplements may interfere with medications, especially blood pressure medications.
It’s good to understand a little bit about what causes high blood pressure so you can talk about it with your doctor, so let’s go over the basic definitions.
What is High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure, also called hypertension, occurs when your blood pressure, which is the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels, is consistently too high.
When your heart beats, it creates pressure to send blood through all of the various blood vessels (arteries, veins, and capillaries) to deliver oxygenated blood to your tissues and organs. The pressure is called blood pressure and results from two forces.
The first force is your systolic blood pressure which occurs as blood is pumped out of your heart and into the arteries (a part of your circulatory system). The second force is your diastolic blood pressure which occurs when the heart rests in between each heartbeat. Each of these two forces is represented by numbers in a blood pressure reading.
How is Blood Pressure Measured?
Health providers measure blood pressure in units of millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) using a sphygmomanometer. To lower high blood pressure you need to understand what the numbers mean.
The top number is your systolic pressure, which indicates how much pressure your blood exerts against your artery walls when your heart contracts. The bottom number is your diastolic pressure and indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against the walls of your arteries when your heart muscles rest between the contractions.
Self-care Activities to Do More:
Follow the Dash Diet
Diligently making healthy food choices regularly can be one of the most effective natural ways to keep your blood pressure in a healthy range.
The American College of Cardiology (ACC) recommends the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension or the more commonly called Dash Diet.
The emphasis of the DASH Diet is to:
- Eat a proper portion size
- Reduce the sodium in your diet
- Eat a variety of foods rich in nutrients that help lower blood pressure
For example, foods with potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
The DASH Diet is a flexible lifelong approach to healthy eating. Most people can adapt to this lifestyle change, even if they hate eating vegetables.
There is also evidence that a daily dose of 30 ml of vinegar can be an effective adjunctive therapy. <source>
Another alternative is following the Mediterranean Diet, which also emphasizes eating lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables, but doesn’t monitor sodium intake as closely.
Eating a low-fat diet can also be helpful in the long term. But you need to make choosing healthy foods a part of your daily life. That means keeping the benefits of maintaining a healthy blood pressure in your mind. Every. Single. Day.
If changing your diet is a struggle for you, you might consider the value of investing in your future health.
Programs like Noom and Weight Watchers can help you change your eating habits to reduce your blood pressure and can help you stay or return to a healthy weight.
Vegetable-forward cookbooks and cooking magazines can be a great help! I use the following products regularly and love them!
First, Joy’s Simple Food Remedies is one of my favorite Cookbooks. I’ve been able to try new vegetables (honestly, I’ve tried new foods from all food groups) using simple recipes. It contains recipes using foods that are proven to lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, ease anxiety and stress, alleviate gas, boost energy, and many other ailments.
Eating Well is a monthly cooking magazine I read cover to cover. I like it because it provides recipes that fit produce that is in season (sometimes reducing the food costs, but typically increasing the food flavor).
I also like this beginner Dash Diet Cookbook because it has great recipes and tips to help stock your pantry and spice cabinet so you can add flavor (and not salt!). But there are many options if you think this one is too basic.
The Salt & Sodium Connection
The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) daily for most adults.
For people with high blood pressure, an ideal limit is no more than 1,500 mg per day. Even cutting back 1,000 mg/day can improve blood pressure and heart health.
Most of us eat too much salt in our food.
If you’re working to lower your blood pressure (or lose weight), you need to understand how much sodium is in salt so you can effectively make small changes to eat less salt.
- 1/4 teaspoon salt = 575 mg sodium
- 1/2 teaspoon salt = 1,150 mg sodium
- 3/4 teaspoon salt = 1,725 mg sodium
- 1 teaspoon salt = 2,300 mg sodium
On a food label, the values reported are ‘per serving.’ If you eat an entire can of soup containing two servings, you have double the sodium intake listed.
Although whole grains are recommended on the Dash Diet, watch out for the ‘Salty 6’ – the top six common foods that add the most salt to your diet. Half of them are in the grain category, but they are processed and not whole or healthy.
Read food labels so you can use products or brands that contain the lowest sodium for these items:
- Bread and Rolls
- Cold cuts and cured meats
Introducing one new low-sodium option per week is an easy way to get started. Over time you’ll have several good ways to replace food with high sodium.
The bottom line, research repeatedly shows benefits to staying active.
If you aren’t active now, just focus on activities you enjoy so you can get started. Hate to exercise? Try this!
Regular aerobic exercise is necessary. Walking counts as exercise, and it works! Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.
Things to Do Less:
Stop smoking – One of the Most Important Self-care Tips to Lower Your Blood Pressure
Smoking tobacco is proven to place you at a higher risk of developing hypertension.
According to the Mayo Clinic, smoking cessation is a self-care activity that quickly reduces your blood pressure.
Your blood pressure and heart rate recover from the cigarette-induced spike within 20 minutes of quitting.
Many workplaces, insurance companies, and state or local governments have smoking cessation programs (and coverage). Don’t let cost detour you – research coverage options or scholarships for smoking cessation programs.
Based on my nursing work experience and research, the programs with the most successful outcomes offer some kind of accountability coaching, or ongoing support, rewards, and encouragement.
If you don’t smoke, never start!
Reduce your stress
Chronic stress is harmful to your health. It can lead to life-threatening diseases. One of the best things you can do to reduce levels of stress hormones is to get enough sleep (7-9 hours) every night. <source>
Good sleep is not only helpful in the short term, but it can also prevent cognitive decline later in life.
Stress management will look different to all of us, but the point is that reducing your stress level can help lower your blood pressure level.
This doesn’t exactly mean getting a massage every other day. It could mean deep breathing for 5 minutes, going to tai chi classes, or bringing relaxation techniques into your me-time.
It means taking a critical look at your stressors and looking for possibilities to manage the impact, lessen, or even eliminate stressors as you can in small amounts.
Make choices that eliminate stressors in your life and deal with ongoing stress to avoid burnout.
Limit Your Alcohol Intake
Alcohol consumption is one of the most frequently abused substances worldwide. Alcohol is a major cause of morbidity and mortality and can lead to more than 200 disorders, including elevated blood pressure. <source>
Research shows heavy alcohol use is a significant risk factor for the development of high blood pressure. <source>
Limit your alcohol intake to low or moderate amounts to avoid extra calories and the risk of developing hypertension.
Cut Back on Caffeine
Caffeine is a mild stimulant to the central nervous system that can quickly boost alertness and energy levels. Caffeine is broken down mostly by the liver and can remain in the blood anywhere from 1.5 to 9.5 hours, depending on many factors. <source>
Blood pressure can be elevated for up to six hours after drinking it. But, current research doesn’t show a significant relationship between caffeine from coffee intake and long-term effects on high blood pressure. <source>
However, research does show energy drink consumption is associated with significantly increased systolic and diastolic blood pressure in healthy children and teenagers (and is not recommended for adolescents with high-risk health conditions). <source>
Monitor the amount of caffeine you drink and eat. Caffeine is in food too. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers 400 milligrams (about 4 cups of brewed coffee) a safe amount of caffeine for healthy adults to consume daily (pregnant women and adolescents have different recommendations).
Try to Lose a Little Weight
Lose extra pounds and watch your waistline regularly.
Weight loss is helpful; losing just 10% of your current weight can positively impact your blood pressure!
Maintaining a healthy body weight (and keeping your body mass index in a healthy range) is helpful to reduce the risk of hypertension and improve overall health. Making healthy food choices and getting regular exercise are beneficial for steady weight loss.
Most Importantly – Take One Step at a Time!
All of these self-care tips to lower your blood pressure are important to do on an ongoing basis.
While it may seem overwhelming, it’s important to realize that none of these self-care tips are impossible, especially if you are determined to take better care of yourself or reduce the medications you have to take to manage your blood pressure.
The most important thing to do is to START. Start small–just pick one thing to do at a time.
But, even changing one part of your self-care can be overwhelming or create anxiety. That’s okay.
We all can feel overwhelmed making a lifestyle change, so I’ve got one last self-care tip.
Research shows meditation can reduce anxiety and stress.
If you are a person of faith, engaging in prayer is a form of meditation. Worship and regular church attendance have also been found to reduce anxiety and manage stress.
If your faith is important to you, I want to encourage you to utilize the truth of God shared in the Bible. You can use scripture to help you find the courage to start taking better care of yourself and the motivation to continue good self-care.
Likely, you are not just trying to take better care of yourself. You may take care of others too. Whether you care for your children, support your spouse, care for aging parents, serve in a ministry, or maybe even all of the above, it takes motivation to make self-care a priority when caring for others.
So consider taking care of yourself to worship and honor the Lord. Find more information here.
Finally, in closing, take the time to identify your personal needs so you can give yourself the proper care needed to lower your blood pressure.
Follow your health provider’s medical advice and implement these 9 self-care tips to lower your blood pressure. Self-care with the specific intent to reduce your blood pressure may help you decrease your dose or possibly even the need for your medication (with your healthcare provider’s direction).
And, you never know, you might find you feel better and enjoy taking better care of yourself!
Here are two free downloads:
FAQ’s for Self-care Tips to Lower Your Blood Pressure
1. What are Blood Pressure Ranges?
Blood pressure numbers of less than 120/80 mm Hg are considered to be within the normal range. If you have normal blood pressure, stick to eating a heart-healthy diet and get regular physical activity.
Blood pressure readings consistently ranging from 120-129 systolic and less than 80 mm Hg diastolic is considered to be in the elevated range. Elevated blood pressure is likely to develop into high blood pressure unless steps are taken to control the condition.
Hypertension Stage 1
Blood pressure readings consistently ranging from 130 to 139 systolic or 80 to 89 mm Hg diastolic is considered to be in the hypertension stage 1 range. At this range, it’s likely to be prescribed lifestyle changes and perhaps blood pressure medication. The risk of developing atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, or ASCVD, such as heart attack or stroke is much higher.
Hypertensions Stage 2
Blood pressure readings are consistently higher than 140/90 mm Hg or higher is considered to be in the Hypertension Stage 2 range. At this range, it’s likely to be prescribed a combination of blood pressure medications and lifestyle changes.
This stage of high blood pressure requires medical attention. When blood pressure readings suddenly exceed 180/120 mm Hg, wait five minutes and then test your blood pressure again. If your readings are still unusually high, contact your healthcare professional immediately.
If your blood pressure is higher than 180/120 mm Hg or you are experiencing chest pain, shortness of breath, back pain, numbness/weakness, change in vision, or difficulty speaking, do not wait to see if your pressure comes down on its own. Call 911.
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Lisa Kimrey is a 30-year veteran registered nurse, speaker, and author of the Bible study, The Self-care Impact: Motivation and Inspiration for Wellness. At Mylifenurse, Lisa writes about simple ways to care for yourself to stay happy, healthy, and rejuvenated while you serve and care for others. Combining her years of nursing expertise with Scripture-based encouragement, Lisa shows readers easy ways to begin and maintain their self-care journey – without feeling guilty. Be sure to grab your FREE Self-care Starter Guide!