It is not possible to reduce diastolic pressure alone. Therefore, a person who has a high diastolic blood pressure will need to lower their total blood pressure.
Blood pressure readings take into account two types of blood pressure: systolic and diastolic. Systolic pressure is the force of blood flow when the heart beats. Diastolic pressure is the force of blood flow between heartbeats.
A high blood pressure reading may involve an increase in the systolic pressure, the diastolic pressure, or both.
This article lists 17 tips for lowering blood pressure. We also describe the outlook for people living with high blood pressure.
Below are some lifestyle changes that could help a person to manage or reduce their blood pressure.
1. Take blood pressure medications as prescribed
The American Heart Association (AHA) state that people should take their blood pressure medications according to their doctor’s exact instructions. People should never quit or cut back on their medications unless their doctor has advised them to do so.
If a person has trouble remembering to take their blood pressure medications, they should set up daily reminders on their phone or other devices.
2. Maintain a healthy weight
Having overweight or obesity increases strain on the heart muscle and can lead to a rise in blood pressure.
According to the AHA, a loss of just 10 pounds (lb) in weight is enough to reduce blood pressure readings in people who have overweight.
3. Trim the waistline
The placement of body fat plays an important role in heart disease. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), a person who has excess body fat around the waistline is at increased risk of developing heart disease compared to someone who has excess body fat on or below the hips.
Cardiovascular exercises and high intensity interval training (HIIT) are good options for helping to trim the waistline and other areas.
4. Increase exercise
A person should talk to their doctor before starting any new exercise program to ensure that they undertake a safe level of physical activity.
5. Quit smoking
According to the AHA, smoking can cause a buildup of fatty deposits inside the arteries. The accumulation of fat constricts blood flow through the arteries, thereby increasing blood pressure.
People who smoke should quit smoking, and all people should avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.
6. Reduce stress
Stress hormones can constrict the blood vessels, causing temporary increases in blood pressure. As such, people who have high blood pressure should take steps to manage their stress levels.
7. Get enough sleep each night
Although sleep may not directly lower a person’s blood pressure, it is vital for physical health and mental wellbeing. A lack of good quality sleep can increase the risk of chronic health conditions, some of which may increase a person’s blood pressure.
The exact amount of sleep a person needs will vary from person to person. However, adults should be aiming to get between 7–9 hours of good quality sleep each night.
8. Monitor blood pressure at home
A person can use a blood pressure monitor to regularly check their blood pressure at home.
According to the AHA, people who have a diagnosis of high blood pressure should check that their blood pressure stays below 130/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). If someone has an elevated systolic or diastolic pressure reading, they should contact their doctor.
9. Try acupuncture
A 2013 study found that acupuncture helped lower blood pressure readings in people who were already taking medications to lower their blood pressure. The authors proposed that acupuncture could be a beneficial add-on treatment for people looking to regulate their blood pressure.
Below are some dietary changes that could help people to manage their blood pressure.
1. Limit alcohol consumption
Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure to an unhealthy level.
The AHA recommend that females drink no more than one alcoholic drink per day and that males drink no more than two alcoholic drinks per day.
2. Limit caffeine consumption
Caffeine may increase blood pressure in some people. Johns Hopkins Medicine state that if a person’s blood pressure increases by 5 to 10 points within 30 minutes of consuming caffeine, they should consider limiting their caffeine intake.
3. Reduce sodium intake
Consuming salt reduces the kidneys’ ability to remove water from the blood. The extra fluid inside the body increases a person’s blood pressure.
According to a 2019 review, researchers recommend that people reduce their total sodium intake to 2 grams (g) or less each day. This should help to lower blood pressure and improve the function of veins and arteries.
A person should avoid adding salt to foods, and should steer clear of foods containing added sodium.
4. Increase potassium intake
Potassium helps reduce blood pressure in two ways: by helping the body release sodium in the urine and easing tension within the walls of blood vessels.
Foods rich in potassium include:
A person should talk to their doctor before considering adding extra potassium to their diet. According to the AHA, potassium can harm people with specific conditions, such as kidney disease, or take certain medications.
5. Limit saturated and trans fats
The AHA also recommend avoiding trans fats, which can increase “bad” cholesterol levels while decreasing “good” cholesterol levels. Like high blood pressure, trans fats increase a person’s chances of developing heart disease and stroke.
6. Avoid sugar
The authors recommend that people avoid added sugar in manufactured foods to help lower their risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
7. Eat heart-healthy foods
A person who has high blood pressure should focus on eating foods that are low in saturated fats, trans fats, sugar, and salt.
The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion recommend that people consume more of the following foods for better cardiovascular health:
- fiber-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables
- low-fat or fat-free dairy
- whole grain breads, cereals, and pasta
- protein-rich foods, such as nuts, tofu, and eggs
- vegetable oils, such as olive oil and sunflower oil
The NHLBI recommend the DASH diet for people with high blood pressure. This eating plan helps support heart health by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.
8. Add probiotics
According to a 2016 study, the probiotic strains lactobacilli and bifidobacteria produce chemicals that can lower blood pressure.
The study authors conclude that probiotics may benefit people with health conditions that can cause high blood pressure. However, scientists need to carry out further research to support these claims. It is also unclear whether taking probiotics reduces blood pressure in people who do not have an underlying health condition.
The length of time it takes to lower blood pressure will vary from person to person.
In addition, some methods for lowering blood pressure will work for some people, but not for others. A person should start seeing changes within a few days to weeks of making the necessary lifestyle and dietary changes.
High blood pressure rarely causes symptoms. People may only discover that they have high blood pressure during a routine visit to their doctor, or after developing complications, such as a heart attack or stroke.
Some symptoms that may be indirectly related to high blood pressure include:
- blood spots in the eyes
- facial flushing
People who experience any of the above symptoms should talk to their doctor.
Measuring blood pressure is the only way to determine whether it is high. People can visit their doctor for a routine blood pressure monitoring. Alternatively, people can ask their doctor for advice on how to measure their blood pressure at home.
People at risk of developing high blood pressure must have regular health checkups and monitor their blood pressure at home.
A person should also see their doctor if they have high blood pressure, and their efforts to lower their blood pressure are ineffective.
High blood pressure can lead to several health complications. According to the AHA, potential complications include:
- heart disease
- heart failure
- peripheral artery disease (PAD)
- loss of vision
- sexual dysfunction
- kidney disease or failure
A person can take several steps to control their high blood pressure at home, both naturally and medically. Taking these steps can reduce the risk of severe complications.
A person who has high blood pressure should monitor their blood pressure at home. They should also see their doctor for regular health checks.
If a person’s efforts to lower their blood pressure are unsuccessful, they should talk to their doctor about other strategies they can try.