Updated 24th August 2022

Natural ways to lower your blood pressure and improve your health

Your doctor may prescribe medication for high blood pressure, but there are also a number of natural ways to help you lower it.

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, affects roughly half of adults in the United States and about a third of those in the United Kingdom

High blood pressure is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and other health conditions.

Improving your diet can make a significant difference and can boost your gut health, too. Exercise, sleep, and other lifestyle changes are also linked to lower blood pressure and better overall health.

Keep reading to learn how you can lower your blood pressure naturally.

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1. Eat the right foods

What you eat plays an important role in your overall health, including managing your blood pressure. 

In fact, evidence suggests that making the right changes to your diet may be the single most effective way to lower blood pressure without medication. 

To help manage your blood pressure, focus on eating a variety of:

  • vegetables

  • fruits

  • whole grains like brown rice, oats, barley, and whole-grain pasta and bread

  • lean protein like beans, poultry, nuts, and fish

This eating pattern is sometimes known as DASH, short for the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension. 

Researchers looking into a range of studies found that adults with high blood pressure who followed the DASH approach significantly lowered their blood pressure.

They also reduced their “bad” cholesterol levels and were predicted to have a 13% lower risk of developing heart disease, on average.

Studies also suggest that some specific foods may have the ability to lower your blood pressure.

These include:

  • olive oil

  • beetroot juice

  • cocoa

  • green, black, and hibiscus teas

  • grapes

  • garlic

  • tomatoes

However, more research is needed to say just how effective they might be. 

At ZOE, we know that everyone’s responses to foods are different. The ZOE at-home test analyzes your blood fat and blood sugar responses to food, along with the bacteria that live in your gut. 

With the ZOE program, you learn which foods are best for your body and your overall health.

You can take our free quiz to find out more.

2. Build a healthy gut

Your gut microbiome is the name for the trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms that live in your gut. A more diverse gut microbiome — with a wide range of beneficial bugs — is generally a healthier one.

Research involving ZOE scientists has shown that there are links between the diversity of your gut microbiome and your blood pressure. 

This large-scale study found that women with high blood pressure had a less diverse gut microbiome than those whose blood pressure was in the normal range. It also identified specific types of bacteria associated with high blood pressure.

You can help to improve your microbiome diversity by following some of the same principles as the DASH diet — eating more wholegrains, plants, and fruits. These contain substances called prebiotics, which feed your gut bacteria.

There’s even some research to suggest that consuming a wide range of probiotics may improve blood pressure by a small amount, although more studies are needed to confirm this.

Fermented foods like live yogurt, sauerkraut, miso, or kimchi are home to natural probiotics, which are microbes similar to the beneficial ones that live in your gut. 

With the ZOE program, you can pick the best foods for your unique gut microbiome. You also learn about your individual “gut booster” foods, which you should eat more of to support your beneficial bacteria, as well as your “gut suppressors,” the foods best enjoyed only occasionally.

3. Hold the salt

If you’re aiming to manage your blood pressure, you may want to keep an eye on your salt intake.

Eating too much salt raises the levels of sodium in your blood. Too much sodium means water is absorbed into your blood. This increases the volume of your blood and therefore your blood pressure.  

Guidelines generally recommend keeping the amount of sodium you eat to less than 2,300 milligrams (2.3 grams) a day, which you'll find in around 6 grams or 1 teaspoon of table salt.

But keeping your sodium intake below 1,500 mg (1.5 g) is ideal. You'll find this amount of sodium in roughly 3.75 grams or just over half a teaspoon of table salt.

You can see how much sodium is in your food by looking at the Nutrition Facts label.

Using less salt doesn’t have to mean sacrificing flavor, though. 

For salt-free flavor, try other taste boosters, like:

  • herbs 

  • spices 

  • vinegar or citrus juice

  • other flavor building blocks like onion and garlic

Eating more healthy, home-cooked meals can be another way to lower salt intake, as the majority of the sodium in our diet often comes from prepackaged products, restaurant food, or ultra-processed foods.

4. Move more

Regular exercise can help you sleep better, lower your risk of health conditions, and improve your quality of life. But did you know that moving more may also be a way to manage your blood pressure?

Research suggests that 2.5 hours a week of moderate to high-intensity aerobic exercise can significantly lower blood pressure. 

But even if you can’t commit to this recommended amount of exercise straight away, adding any extra movement to your routine is an important first step.

Start with small changes. Park a little farther away from the store. Take the stairs rather than the elevator. Take a quick walk after dinner. These all add up and can help improve your health. 

Before starting a new exercise routine, be sure to talk to your doctor about any health conditions or concerns you may have.

5. Lose weight, if needed

For people with overweight, losing even 5–10% of body weight may help to lower blood pressure.

However, not everyone needs to lose weight. If your weight falls within a moderate range, losing weight may not be necessary. Talk to your doctor to discuss whether it’s appropriate for you.

At ZOE, we don’t believe in restrictive dieting. The ZOE program helps you find the best foods for your unique body and overall health, which may lead to natural weight loss.

Unpublished research shows that people who closely followed their personalized ZOE nutrition program for 3 months lost an average of 9.4 pounds, while 82% said they had more energy and felt less hungry.

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6. Stop smoking

Smoking cigarettes can lead to a number of serious health conditions, including cancer, heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. 

Smoking can also increase your blood pressure. As the nicotine from a cigarette enters your bloodstream, adrenaline is released, causing a rise in heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure. 

The long-term effect of smoking on blood pressure is more complex. A direct link between smoking and higher blood pressure has not been established. But experts believe that smoking causes narrowing of the arteries and the walls of arteries to become stiffer, which leads to poor cardiovascular health.  

A recent study found that people who smoke and have high blood pressure may see a significant improvement after quitting.

7.  Manage your stress

Scientists are still looking into the links between stress and blood pressure. However, stress can contribute to risk factors associated with high blood pressure, like drinking too much or eating an unhealthy diet.

There is some evidence that meditation techniques and mindfulness activities may help people cope with stress and lower blood pressure.

One review of studies found that meditation and breathing exercises were the most effective of these approaches in lowering blood pressure, although they were less successful than improvements to diet or increased exercise.

More research is needed to look at the possible benefits of these techniques to lowering blood pressure.

8. Get enough sleep

Getting enough sleep is vital for your overall health, including your blood pressure. The amount of sleep you need changes with age, but most adults should aim for at least 7 hours each night.

Adequate sleep gives your body time to rest and naturally lowers your blood pressure. Not getting enough sleep can interfere with this process and keep your blood pressure higher for longer.

9. Cut down on alcohol

Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommend that women consume no more than one standard drink a day and that men consume no more than two. 

Research also suggests that if you currently drink more than a moderate amount of alcohol, cutting down can lower your blood pressure

And, of course, drinking too much comes with a whole host of other health risks, so cutting down is beneficial for your overall health.

Summary

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a common health condition, affecting millions of people worldwide. It’s associated with an increased risk of illnesses including heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease.

Many treatment plans include medication to lower blood pressure, but there are also a number of changes you can make to help improve your blood pressure naturally.

Doing more exercise, quitting smoking, cutting down on salt and alcohol, and finding ways to manage stress are all good for your overall health and may be effective in lowering blood pressure.

Eating a healthy diet based on fruit and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein, is a particularly effective way of lowering blood pressure, and it can contribute to better gut health, too. 

Speak with your doctor about high blood pressure and before making any changes to your regular medication.

At ZOE, we know that nutrition is personal. With the ZOE program, you can find the best foods for your body.

Take our free quiz to find out more.

Sources

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Cigarettes and other tobacco products drug facts. (2021). https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/cigarettes-other-tobacco-products

Effects of the dietary approach to stop hypertension (DASH) diet on cardiovascular risk factors: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The British Journal of Nutrition. (2014). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25430608/

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Nutraceuticals with clinically detectable blood pressure-lowering effect: a review of available randomized clinical trials and their meta-analyses. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. (2016). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5338151/

The effect of a reduction in alcohol consumption on blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Lancet Public Health. (2017). https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2468266717300038 

The role of smoking cessation programs in lowering blood pressure: a retrospective cohort study. Tobacco Induced Diseases. (2021). http://www.tobaccoinduceddiseases.org/The-role-of-smoking-cessation-programs-in-lowering-blood-npressure-A-retrospective,142664,0,2.html

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