Natural ways to lower blood pressure

Dr Luke Laffin

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

With one in three adults worldwide suffering from high blood pressure, or hypertension, simple lifestyle changes can significantly reduce the risk of serious health issues like strokes, heart attacks, and kidney damage, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Dr. Luke Laffin, a preventive cardiologist and Co-Director of the Center for Blood Pressure Disorders at Cleveland Clinic, shares five effective ways to lower blood pressure naturally.

“Blood pressure management is often 70% lifestyle and 30% medications,” said Dr. Laffin. “While some people can lower blood pressure with lifestyle changes alone, the two approaches are complementary. If you take blood pressure medication but don’t make lifestyle changes, your medications won’t work effectively.”

  1. Eat Less Salt

Reducing salt intake is crucial. “Cutting your salt intake is probably the most important way to lower high blood pressure,” Dr. Laffin emphasized. Studies show that a low-sodium diet can be as effective as taking one-and-a-half to two blood pressure medications.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends no more than 1,500 mg of salt per day, but Cleveland Clinic providers suggest a more achievable limit of 2,300 mg. “If you can get there without changing your diet drastically and being miserable, that’s great — but getting to 2,300 milligrams or less can go a long way,” Dr. Laffin said.

Impact: Reducing sodium intake from 3,500 mg to 2,300 mg can lower blood pressure by 2 to 3 mmHg. Limiting it to 1,500 mg can reduce it by 5 to 6 mmHg.

  1. Consume More Potassium

Potassium helps the kidneys eliminate excess sodium, lowering blood pressure. “Potassium is the inverse of sodium,” Dr. Laffin explained. A diet high in fast food and processed food is usually low in potassium.

Dr. Laffin advises consuming 3,000 to 3,500 mg of potassium per day through foods like bananas, tomatoes, avocados, and spinach. However, this recommendation does not apply to patients with kidney disease, who should avoid high potassium intake.

Impact: Increasing potassium intake to recommended levels can reduce blood pressure by 4 to 5 mmHg.

  1. Adopt the DASH Diet

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is designed to lower blood pressure. “The DASH diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and can be combined with a low-sodium diet,” Dr. Laffin said. It also helps with weight loss, further lowering blood pressure.

Impact: Following the DASH diet can lower systolic pressure by up to 11 mmHg in just a few weeks.

  1. Get Physical

“Being sedentary can increase blood pressure,” Dr. Laffin noted. Regular aerobic exercise helps reduce blood pressure by improving blood flow and vessel flexibility. Resistance exercises also contribute to lowering blood pressure.

Impact: 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week can lower blood pressure by 5 to 8 mmHg. Dynamic resistance exercises can reduce it by 4 to 5 mmHg.

  1. Achieve a Healthy Weight

Weight loss significantly impacts blood pressure. “The fat cells around our mid-section secrete hormones that raise blood pressure,” Dr. Laffin explained.

Impact: Losing 1 kg (2.2 pounds) can drop blood pressure by 1 mmHg.

Dr. Laffin also recommended avoiding smoking, stress, lack of sleep, and alcohol consumption, as these factors contribute to high blood pressure.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a major global health issue, affecting one in three adults worldwide. Left untreated, it can lead to severe health problems like strokes, heart attacks, and kidney damage. The World Health Organization (WHO) emphasizes the importance of lifestyle changes in managing blood pressure, alongside medication when necessary.