#012 Lower Your Blood Pressure with These Eight Steps

Print this pageEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponTweet about this on Twitter

Did you know that half of all American adults have a blood pressure above what the American Heart Association recommends?  Of the 70% of Americans on prescription medications, a large percentage of these take medications for high blood pressure.

High blood pressure is a leading cause of atrial fibrillation, stroke, and coronary heart disease.  If we are going to reverse or prevent those conditions, we need to get our blood pressure under control.

For many of my patients, these medications often leave them feeling tired, groggy, or lightheaded.  Some even report weight gain with these medications.  Do so many Americans really need to take all of these high blood pressure medications?  Is there another way?

Welcome to the foods that lower blood pressure.  These are the natural ways to lower blood pressure.

My Experience with High Blood Pressure

The first time I saw a high blood pressure reading was at about age 30.  I had a routine check up at the doctor’s office and they told me my blood pressure was 150/100 mmHg.  At the time I thought I was just “stressed” and did not pay it much attention.

For years, even as a physician I just pushed it to the back of my mind.  I was young and healthy.  Why should I worry about my blood pressure?  I couldn’t possibly have high blood pressure.

Of course, as a physician, I knew all of the long-term complications of high blood pressure.  I knew that high blood pressure can lead to heart failure, heart attacks, arrhythmias, strokes, kidney failure, blindness, and other problems.  Somehow, this all seemed “academic” or something that did not apply to me.

By age 40 my blood pressure consistently ranged anywhere from 135-150/85-90 mmHg.  Once I hit my 40s I knew I could no longer ignore it.  I decided to try a medication.

As I had Cozaar samples (losartan) at my medical practice, I decided to give this a try.  I put myself on 50 mg a day of Cozaar and it brought my blood pressure down by about 10 mmHg.

Fortunately, I did not have too many noticeable side effects.  I was a bit fatigued from the medication.  The hardest part was remembering to take it every day.

At the time, it never crossed my mind if there was another way.  Like most of my patients at the time, I also took my daily medications.

By my mid-40s, my health had hit rock bottom.  I was on 5 medications and felt horrible.  Not only did I have high blood pressure but I also was overweight, had high cholesterol, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, esophageal problems, and an autoimmune disease.

After learning of a small remote mountainous village in Southwest China where people live very long lives free of medical problems, medications, and surgeries, I knew this was a place we had to visit.  We had to learn their secrets to optimal health.  We spent several years studying the villagers and learning from them.

After completely changing my diet and lifestyle, the weight naturally dropped off and my blood pressure came way down.  Today, my blood pressure averages 110/70 mmHg.  I am also off of all medications.  I feel better now than I have ever felt.

Most of my patients who follow this same lifestyle can also drop their blood pressure 20-40 mmHg and get off of their high blood pressure medications.  This is far more than what most doctors think is even possible from making lifestyle changes.  It is not easy, but you will feel so much better if you can faithfully follow the 8 steps below and get off your medications!

A word of caution.  These eight steps will drop your blood pressure very fast and very significantly.  Please work very closely with your physician in lifestyle changes to treat high blood pressure and never stop any prescribed medications without first discussing it with your physician.

Eight Natural Ways to Lower Blood Pressure

1. Eat Less Sodium

When physicians talk to patients about lifestyle changes to reduce blood pressure, this is probably the number one piece of advice we give.  Unfortunately, this is often the only advice patients receive about how to lower their blood pressure naturally.

There is some controversy, even with physician organizations, on how low we should go.  The most aggressive recommendations are from the American Heart Association who recommend keeping sodium (salt) below 1,500 mg per day.  Some studies indicate potential harm with this ultra low sodium diet.

I now recommend eating approximately 2,300 mg of sodium each day for my patients.  Considering that the average American consumes 3,400 mg of sodium each day, this will require some significant sodium reduction.

When I discuss this with my patients they generally tell me, “I never salt my food”.  While that may be true, that is not where we are getting our salt overload.  For the typical American, 80% of their daily salt intake comes from processed foods.

If you are going to get to 2,300 mg/day of sodium you have no choice but to minimize processed foods and be very careful when eating out.  You have to eat real food to reach this goal.

2. Stay Physically Active

Did you know that exercising daily can lower your blood pressure?  Just as important as exercising daily is to keep moving throughout the day.  For my patients, I recommend 30 minutes daily of at least moderate intensity exercise AND 10,000 steps per day as recorded by a pedometer.

Studies show that even if we faithfully go to the gym each day, if we sit the rest of the day we negate the beneficial effects.  We need to find ways to keep moving throughout the day.

Too often we are confined to “desk sentences”.  This is not real living.  Our bodies were genetically designed to move. The old adage is true.  Use it or lose it.

3. Get Plenty of Potassium and Magnesium in Your Diet

A diet high in potassium and magnesium has been shown to also lower blood pressure.  You don’t typically find these important electrolytes in processed foods or sports drinks.  Rather, these electrolytes are found in certain fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes.  These are the foods that lower blood pressure. Once again, to lower your blood pressure you need to eat real food!

4. Eat Animal Meat Sparingly

While I am not advocating a vegetarian diet, I am suggesting that animal meats, especially processed and red meats, may raise our blood pressure.  The processed meats, like hot dogs, bacon, sausage, and deli meats, can be especially detrimental to our health and blood pressure.

For my patients, I recommend that animal meat should be a special treat eaten one or two times a week rather than something that is eaten several times a day.  For those who do enjoy animal meats, I recommend lean and organic cuts.

Fish, on the other hand, may lower blood pressure and has many other beneficial effects.  The key to selecting fish is to find a fish low in mercury and other contaminants.  My favorite fish for nutrition is Wild Alaskan Salmon.  While this can be quite pricy, places like Costco offer very affordable Wild Alaskan Salmon.  I personally eat Wild Alaskan Salmon twice a week.

5. Minimize Stress

When we are stressed out our bodies release chemicals, such as cortisol and adrenalin, which both raise blood pressure.  Not only will stress raise our blood pressure but stress is also an important cause of coronary heart disease. With our fast paced, hectic lives, we need to do something each day specifically to release our stress.

For me, I find that exercising in the mountains has a powerful effect on lowering my stress levels.  Regardless of what I may be feeling at the time, just spending some time exercising in the mountains seems to make it all go away.

For others, it could be meditation, yoga, spending time with friends, or reading that help with stress.  Find what works for you and do something each day to reduce your stress.

6. Minimize Processed Foods and Sugar

This recommendation goes without saying.  Our processed food and high sugar diet in the U.S. is a big cause of high blood pressure.  It also raises our blood pressure through weight gain.   These simple or hunger causing carbs also cause us to retain fluids which only further raise our blood pressure.  We have to return to real foods.

With regards to added sugar, the World Health Organization (WHO) now recommends keeping added sugars to 25 grams/day or lower.  As there are 4 grams of sugar in a teaspoon, that works out to be a little more than 6 teaspoons a day.  That really is not much if you consider that a 12 oz can of Coke has 39 grams of sugar!

7. Eat Primarily a Plant Based Diet

Eating primarily unprocessed real foods, like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes with fish, is the key to a healthy diet.  These are the foods that lower blood pressure.  It is always better to first try natural ways to lower blood pressure.  These foods heal us.  These foods not only lower our blood pressure but can also reverse many other medical conditions.

8. Keep Your Weight in Check

High blood pressure and being overweight generally go hand-in-hand.  Being overweight is also an important cause of atrial fibrillation, coronary heart disease, and heart failure.

I saved this for number 8, as if you are doing numbers 1-7 then weight loss will occur naturally.  Most of my patients report dramatic weight loss without feeling hungry by following numbers 1-7.

One of the biggest challenges I have had in working with my patients is in teaching them how to prepare healthy foods. It seems that as a society we have forgotten how to cook.  Instead we have outsourced food preparation to the processed food and fast food corporations who often do not care about the long-term health of their customers.

If we can focus on eating real foods and real living then the weight will come off naturally.  We won’t need to count the calories.  We can live the way we were genetically designed to live!

One point to remember.  When lowering your blood pressure naturally it is important to work with your physician very closely.  Your blood pressure can drop very fast when you make healthy lifestyle changes.  Never stop medications on your own.

How is your blood pressure? What have you found that helps to keep your blood pressure in check? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Print this pageEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponTweet about this on Twitter

Subscribe to Dr. Day's Weekly Newsletter
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Disclaimer Policy: This website is intended to give general information and does not provide medical advice. This website does not create a doctor-patient relationship between you and Dr. John Day. If you have a medical problem, immediately contact your healthcare provider. Information on this website is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Dr. John Day is not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your medical decisions.

42 Comments
  1. Until February 2016, I only saw my doctor once a year for my ‘wellness’ bloodwork and exam. Not diabetic, perfect cholesterol, not overweight, eat real foods.
    So far, not ONE doctor asked me anything about my ‘lifestyle.’This year, my BP was around 156/95. An EKG was immediately done in office and a cardiologist was recommended for an echo. I told the PA I was divorcing after 36 years, sold my house, moved in with my daughter, best friend died. All on deaf ears. 50mg of Metoprolol scripted, 2 weeks later 100mg. My BP dropped so low I almost passed out, had pounding heart, ached all over, had flu like symptoms, eyes blurred, lethargic
    ABRUPTLY stopped meds and put on LOSARTAN 100mg.Zpack and ProAir inhaler 2 days later in ER, almost died. Told Dr I wanted OFF the meds so, back on Metoprolol 50mg, Losartan 50mg, Advair inhaler and other meds that caused to to end up on inhalation therapy. Had relentless POUNDING heart, ALL my symptoms were side effects but kept on meds.I could barely move and they wanted me to have a stress test! ECHO came back fine. BLOOD THINNERS (anti coagulants) recommended b/c I could have a STROKE, but I refused. Xarelto and Eliquis side effects could kill me. Asked if it could be my THYROID, it was dismissed. Asked about magnesium, dismissed. My insurance doesn’t cover Naturopaths.I SLOWLY weaned myself off the meds and got my life back! Dr Stephan Sinatra had an article about Carnitine, taurine, l-arginine, Hawthorn, magnesium. I have reduced the frequency and duration of the afib, but it’s not totally gone. Ablation has serious concerns for me. Read an abstract about meds that trigger afib. Problem is not ALL afib is stopped when meds are not taken. MEDS treating symptoms, with more meds to treat the side effects etc is not an option for me. My BP first thing in AM averages 138/93 vs 159/95. My stress is from the frustration of having a doctor do NO HARM! YOU are rare in that you are telling us how to avoid harmful meds. Most people want a ‘quick fix’ and decide to take a pill/s I don’t want MEDS, I want to heal myself of the afib, if it’s possible to reverse. I follow your recommendations and yet my BP and Afib is still not consistent. In the back of my mind is the stroke possibility if I don’t take the Xarelto samples. I’m just frustrated I can’t have a doctor that knows HOW to help me, the patient, the one taking the risk. Without a DR, people go online and get confused with ALL the contradictions. Even Dr Ornish recommends SOY, soy cheese, CANOLA oil of all things! I’m venting here…I’m in a DISEASE CARE system that is profitable. I am not rich enough to afford to pay cash to an herbalist, Chinese or Ayurvedic healer. I WANT to heal myself but I need guidance from a reliable source and sadly, there just aren’t doctors like you around, in person. thanks for listening

    • Hi Terry,

      Yes, these health conditions can be very frustrating. You definitely need a physician you can trust to help you navigate these health challenges. It sounds like it may be time for a second opinion.

      Wishing you the best,

      John

  2. I’m told by my doctor that I must take bp meds because the issue is that one kidney is very small (due to a medical error, actually). That makes the other kidney overwork and causes high bp. I’m thin, active, and eat mostly fruits, veg., nuts, fish, yogurt. Would love to get off my meds. Any hope?

    • Hi Marj,

      Kidney issues may indeed raise blood pressure. While many cases of high blood pressure can be reversed, not everyone’s blood pressure can be reversed. Regardless, a healthy lifestyle can minimize your medications and help in so many other ways.

      Best,

      John

  3. Dr Day
    I was advised to take Hawthorn tablets to help reduce A-fib do you have any thought on this.
    Many thanks
    Pat

  4. Food-wise, not having a good amount of salt intake was a killer for me. I can’t stand bland food. But luckily, I’ve found that hot sauce (Tabasco specifically) can be a great low sodium way to make non-salty foods much more interesting. Although needs to be of course combined with other measures to manage blood pressure effectively, for example using a home monitoring unit.

    Since I got a home blood pressure monitoring unit, I’ve been much better at keeping it in check because there’s no more guessing or waiting for symptoms (headache, etc).

    Check out this site for some pointers on blood pressure checkers: http://www.bloodpressurechecker.org

  5. lowering blood pressure
    Studies show that a person can control blood pressure if he is more active. Actually, working out for 30 minutes a day is a great way to lower blood pressure fast. in this case, you should get the best blood pressure monitor before you start doing the work outs. It will help you getting the right direction for lowering blood pressure.

    • Absolutely! Physical activity is a fantastic way to lower blood pressure!

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Best,

      John

  6. If a patient has asymptomatic A-Fib what are your recommendations regarding alcohol? Never? Occasionally? 1 or 2 glasses a day?

    • Hi Viv,

      Great question. Unfortunately, alcohol has been linked to Afib in nearly every study.

      Of course, that does not mean that everyone who drinks will get Afib. Rather, all it means is that the more alcohol people consume the higher their risk of Afib. Even just one drink daily has been shown to increase the Afib risk by about 10%.

      When my patients ask about alcohol and Afib, I generally tell them to monitor what happens. If they can drink responsibly without Afib, then it probably isn’t a problem for them. However, if even one drink triggers Afib then I generally advise staying away.

      Hope this helps!

      John

  7. Thanks Doctor, This is helpful because my blood pressure check read 150/100. I am not a hypertension patient previously. Please send this article to my mail, I need to live healthy.

  8. Another great article, Dr. Day! Your program is wonderful and is helping me lose weight I’ve carried for years. Since I began following your guidelines six months ago, I’ve lost more than 40 pounds and no longer have blood sugar in the pre-diabetic range. I’ve also seen improvement in blood pressure, though my numbers still jump around sometimes with stress (I even can have seeming ‘white coat hypertension for the first reading or two even when I monitor at home if I’m anxious), though not as high as before.

    My question: is it undesirable for diastolic to often be under 70, say 115/58, 104/55, or 120/67? When my diastolic is 70 or above, the systolic might be above 120, so I haven’t wanted to reduce my medication, especially since I can still have higher readings occasionally (160/80 at doctor’s office, for example.

    I’ve also seen studies that said diastolic below 70 has been associated with brain atrophy or heart failure in some patient groups and wonder if that is an evidence-based risk or not. Thank you for any info you can share!

    • Hi Jean,

      Congratulations on the 40 pound weight loss, reversing your pre-diabetes, and lowering your blood pressure! That is an amazing accomplishment!

      A low diastolic blood pressure is something that has not been well studied. The problem with association studies is that they don’t prove causation.

      A classic example was hormone replacement therapy for women. Every association study showed that women who took hormone replacement therapy had less heart disease. As a result, the recommendations were for all post menopausal women to take them.

      Then someone did a real study…In a study where half of the women got hormone replacement therapy and half got placebo they found that hormone replacement therapy is actually quite risky and that it causes heart attacks.

      How do you explain these conflicting results?

      The answer is that women who were concerned about their health took the hormones. Because these women were very motivated, their health diets, daily exercise, etc. helped them more than the risk of taking the hormones.

      This is why you have to view association studies with a big grain of salt. You would have to go to the original study and see what people they were studying. My guess is that this study included a very sick population.

      Make sure your physician is aware of all your blood pressure readings. In the meantime, keep going with your healthy living!

      I am proud of you!

      John

      • Thank you so much for your cogent explanation and wonderfully encouraging words, Dr. Day! You have such a gift for educating and elucidating, as well as an exceptional ability to probe all the known data and create user-friendly, super motivating and helpful articles that change people’s lives. Your weight loss and health strategies work like nothing I’ve ever seen, and your generosity in sharing your understanding and answering questions here is a tremendous public service. Thanks again–and again!

  9. Dr. Day:————I was recently diagnosed with Afib (7 weeks ago) and placed on blood thinners and it has been suggested that I undergo Cardoverion to reset the rhythm of my heart, At 72 and still working, I am very concerned because I have had a pace maker for 7 years as a result of a RBBB, with no problems at all. I have read that Cardoversion procedure can damage the generator and the leads of pacemaker, which is not what I want to happen. Going from the frying pan into the fire is not my answer to good health results.

    Do you have any knowledge of this problem?

    Thank you for your time.

    Marty

    • Hi Marty,

      Great questions. Yes, if you put the shocking paddles or pads right over the pacemaker, or immediately next to the device, there is a chance it could damage the electronics of the device.

      At our hospital we have done thousands and thousands of cardioversions for patients with pacemakers or defibrillators. We have not seen any cases where the device or the leads were damaged from the cardioversion shock. We never put the shocking paddles or pads too close or on top of the pacemaker or defibrillator. Of course, this does not mean this complication could not happen–just that the risk is very low with the proper technique.

      Hope this helps!

      John

  10. Hello ,
    First of all, thanks for your great article..
    Actually am medical student (final year) ,24 years old , smoker (more than one pocket per day) , my BMI is 28 and i think my cholesterol levels also high because i prefers fatty meals , before 3 days ago by accident when i was learning my friend how to measure BP and asked him to do it on me the reading was 150/90 when i shoked and try it again when i backed home and it was the same reading , i dont have any symptoms or past medical history but am really stressed over than you think because am not ready to use drugs in my age and in the same time am afraid of the hypertensions long term complications , i have read a lot of articles about how naturally reduce the BP, and i already started in the next day at the early morning went to gym, decreased my diets more than half , stopped smoking.ect , my queations are :
    1-Now am considered as hypertensive even if my BP returns to normal by natural ways ?
    2- if my BP returns to normal what about the long term complications ? And for how long i have to be very cautious about my food and life style changes ?
    3- if i stopped exercise it will be high again ?

    Please if u can answer my questions it will be more than great,
    Thanks in advance

    • Hi Muktr,

      Congratulations on making healthy changes now! If you can normalize your blood pressure by lifestyle changes then you would no longer be considered hypertensive. The long term complications really depend on how high and how long your blood pressure was elevated. Fortunately, you have made lifestyle changes at a young age. Yes, you need to continue to maintain a healthy lifestyle or the high blood pressure will come back again.

      Hope this helps!

      John

  11. Hi: I am a 59 year old male who decided to get serious about my weight when my BP spiked one night while I was sleeping. I have a strong medical background and when I saw 165/105 I was stunned, as I am not obese “looking” per se at 5”10″ and was 221 lbs – which is obese for my frame. They put me on Lisinopril but had the coughing side effect so they put me on Losartin which worked, but I experienced hypotension from time to time so I ended up on Norvasc. My Holter monitor showed only 10 PVC’s for 24 hours, and my Cardiac echo was negative.

    I am now 193 lbs and exercise 5-6 days / week. I feel great overall and only take 1/2 of my Norvasc… Which I am thinking I need to go back on a full pill as my BP runs 135-140 / 80-89. All of a sudden 10 days ago, I started experiencing “heavy” PVC’s in a trigeminy / bigeminy pattern and then it bounces all over the place. I can’t sleep on my left side as I can feel every PVC and it interrupts my sleep. They literally take my breath away, makes me cough sometimes, and I feel a little lightheaded.

    EVERYTHING I read says “not to worry”, that they are benign, but when they are occurring so frequently (like right now)… It’s concerning nonetheless. I am wondering if I should go on a beta blocker or just try to forget about them. I am stopping coffee, and trying to stay away from much salt. Exercise seems to help so I am increasing my workouts. Any ideas or suggestions are very much appreciated!!

    JW

    • Hi Jeff,

      Congratulations on your weight loss and exercise efforts! To answer your question on PVCs, only your cardiologist can tell you if these PVCs are benign or not based on their testing. Regardless of whether the PVCs are benign or not, living as healthy as possible can decrease the frequency of these PVCs. If it helps, I wrote an article on how to stop PVCs (blog #18): http://drjohnday.com/stop-pvcs/.

      Best,

      John

  12. This really is a question on how to monitor BP (at home). I have a BP cuff which works well on members of my family, but stopped working for me about a month ago. About a month ago my pulse became quite chaotic. I had no real symptoms, but a physician friend suggests likely afib. In any case, with a chaotic pulse, the BP cuff only gives me error readings. Are there any home BP gadgets available that would work with a chaotic pulse?

    • Yes, this can be quite a challenge. I can’t tell you how many patients I have had who thought their blood pressure machine was “broken” until they later discovered they were in atrial fibrillation.

      If you think you might have developed Afib, the first step would be to document the rhythm. This could be at your doctors office, a local urgent care clinic, or even the emergency room. Afib can lead to strokes and heart failure if untreated.

      With regards to atrial fibrillation and blood pressure monitors, many machines can still detect the pulse in Afib but some cannot. Probably the best suggestion is to go to your local pharmacy or medical supply store and test the machines while you are in Afib, having premature beats, or whatever the cause is of an irregular rhythm. Go with the machine that works in all situations. Even better are the blood pressure cuffs that will also let you know if your pulse is irregular or not.

      Good luck!

      John

  13. IF I get somewhat dehydrated my blood pressure goes up. When I drink more water, my blood pressure goes down. I do better drinking 6 to 8 glasses of water a day unless I get sweating, then I have to drink more.

  14. I agree with you completely with one exception==exercise and diet (correcting metabolic syndrome) is different for me (old age) versus younger ages.Medicare does not encourage or pay for preventive medicine.Doctors cannot prescribe prescriptions for Yoga, meditation, silver snickers exercises. You have to pay for it and it takes long time to see results.They will pay for prescriptions to cover symptoms immediately and doctors are not rewarded to do it.

    • Medicare does pay for a gym membership through Silver Sneakers and they do encourage you to use it and get daily exercise.

    • Hi Delia,

      You are absolutely correct. This is a huge problem. We need Medicare and insurance companies to see the life changing benefits of healthy lifestyles.

      John

  15. In my experience, undiagnosed food sensitivities can also adversely affect blood pressure. One food I am sensitive to (eggs) caused horrible joint pain, muscle pain, digestive issues, and bloating. Once I cut them out of my diet, those symptoms disappeared, and my blood pressure went into the normal range. I also thought I had an abnormal sensitivity to salt (I have seen my weight swing up by 15 lbs in less than 48 hours after a spike in salt intake) but after cutting out eggs, my weight is pretty much unaffected by salt.
    Get More Info : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-z8v6cZlA0

    • Hi Lily,

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience! While salt and sugar tend to raise blood pressure for most people, there can be other dietary causes of high blood pressure like with your experience.

      Best,

      John

  16. Great list. Don’t forget meditation. There are many good audio guides now and it is a proven technique for lowering blood pressure.

  17. […] than have of us here in America have high blood pressure. In fact, 56% of us are above the ideal blood pressure of 120/80 mmHg, as established by the […]

  18. […] If your blood pressure often reads higher than this, please work with your physician on getting your blood pressure under control. Please also read my article (Blog #12) Lower Your Blood Pressure with These Eight Steps. […]