High blood pressure is a common health concern. People can reduce their blood pressure in several ways, including diet, exercise, and blood pressure medication.
How long it takes to lower blood pressure depends on different factors, including:
- how high someone’s blood pressure is at the start
- what methods they used to lower it
- other individual health factors
While blood pressure medications work relatively quickly, people usually need to stick to certain changes in their diet and lifestyle to keep their blood pressure down long term.
This article looks at how long it takes to lower blood pressure with different methods.
Medication helps lower blood pressure quickly, typically within a few days. However, it may not be the best long-term treatment due to side effects.
Medication can help manage high blood pressure while a person changes their underlying lifestyle that may be causing high blood pressure.
Diet changes can quickly lower blood pressure in many cases.
A study in the journal Hypertension reported that people following the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet lowered their blood pressure by 1–4 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) in 1 week.
The same study noted that reducing sodium intake gradually decreased blood pressure over 4 weeks.
Making consistent, long-term changes to diet and lifestyle can help keep blood pressure in a healthy range.
The following sections discuss how to reduce blood pressure using various methods.
A healthful diet can reduce the risk of high blood pressure and can help lower blood pressure. Conversely, certain diets can increase a person’s blood pressure by causing water retention or weight gain.
Diets high in the following components can increase blood pressure:
A healthful diet includes plenty of heart healthy foods, including:
Many doctors will include diet plans as part of treatment for high blood pressure. For instance, the DASH diet plan incorporates heart healthy eating while also reducing foods that increase blood pressure.
Taking steps towards eating a heart healthy diet is a good way to reduce blood pressure. Anyone having trouble changing their diet may want to talk to a dietitian for guidance.
Exercise is an important factor in reducing a person’s blood pressure. Regular exercise helps prevent and reduce high blood pressure.
A review published in the journal Blood Pressure found that regular exercise led to a 3.9% drop in systolic blood pressure and a 4.5% drop in diastolic blood pressure in older adults.
Additionally, exercise has many health benefits and helps control other risk factors for high blood pressure, including overweight and obesity.
Exercise is not a quick fix for high blood pressure but a lifestyle change.
Including regular exercise is one step towards lowering blood pressure and is best when people incorporated it with other factors, such as a healthful diet.
A person’s weight directly influences the heart and circulatory system.
Overweight and obesity increase the risk for high blood pressure and also place extra strain on the heart. For most people, diet and exercise changes are effective ways to manage weight and reduce these risks.
Losing weight in a healthful way that takes time but has many benefits. Learn more here.
High sodium diets increase the risk for issues in the heart, such as high blood pressure. Reducing sodium intake can reduce the risk.
A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology reported that people who reduced their sodium intake lowered their blood pressure by 3–9 mm Hg.
Smoking is a risk factor for a number of heart conditions, along with other effects on the body. It may also influence blood pressure both directly and indirectly.
The American Heart Association (AHA) state that smoking itself increases blood pressure. Every time a person smokes, their blood pressure temporarily goes up.
Additionally, smoking increases the risk of atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of fatty plaque in the arteries.
Atherosclerosis increases a person’s risk for other issues, such as heart attack and stroke. High blood pressure speeds up the process of atherosclerosis.
Quitting smoking can help reduce these risks.
Alcohol is another risk factor for high blood pressure.
A person does not have to eliminate alcohol from their diet in order to benefit. However, reducing alcohol intake can significantly lower blood pressure.
One 2017 study reported that reducing alcohol intake in people who drank more than two drinks per day led to a reduction of 5.5 mm Hg systolic and 4 mm Hg diastolic blood pressure.
Drinking more than two drinks may raise blood pressure.
Stress is another important factor for overall health that may contribute to blood pressure.
An individual’s reaction to stress may influence heart health, as well. For example, some people may turn to alcohol, smoking, or comfort foods. These factors may increase the risk for high blood pressure.
Finding ways to reduce or eliminate stress may help reduce these factors. Stress reductions techniques include:
- breathing exercises
- movement activities, such as tai chi or qi gong
- yoga or gentle stretches
- other therapies, such as acupuncture or massage
- removing personal stress triggers
Other heart healthy tips may also help reduce stress, such as getting regular exercise. Stress reduction itself is part of an overall change for heart health.
A number of other factors also increase the risk for high blood pressure, including:
- a family history of high blood pressure
- older age
- chronic kidney disease
- a sedentary lifestyle
- sleep apnea
- high cholesterol
- race, as African Americans tend to develop high blood pressure more
Age and gender also play a role. The AHA note that males under 64 years of age are more likely to have high blood pressure. After 65, females are more likely to have high blood pressure.
Having high blood pressure increases the risk for other serious issues affecting the heart, such as atherosclerosis and heart attack.
Making direct changes to the diet and lifestyle may bring about relatively quick reductions in blood pressure. In some cases, doctors may recommend drugs to help keep the blood pressure in line as an individual makes changes to their diet and lifestyle.
While some changes can produce results quickly, it is important to continue with these trends. Switching to old habits may simply revert these changes and bring the person’s blood pressure back up.
Rather than a quick fix, consistent changes are the best way to reduce blood pressure long-term.