“You have high blood pressure,” your doctor says “and you need to lower it to reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.” Not the news you want to hear, especially when it was just a routine visit.
It’s a lot to absorb. Most likely your doctor will tell you to change your diet, cut out salt and red meat, and send you home with a pill to pop to lower your blood pressure. But wait…you have questions.
Is medication the only answer, or are there natural remedies to lower blood pressure?
How should you change your diet? What types of foods can and should you eat?
What sort of lifestyle changes can lower blood pressure, and how long does it take, or will you have to live with it for the rest of your life?
Hypertension known as high blood pressure is the #1 cause of strokes in the US, affecting around 75 million people. And that number is predicted to rise to 1.56 billion worldwide by the year 2025. But with knowledge comes power and the ability to reduce these numbers.
More people are choosing to leave behind the SAD (Standard American Diet) of sodium/sugar-laden, highly processed high saturated fat foods, and things like alcohol, tobacco, and inactive lifestyle – focusing instead on healthy diet, active lifestyle, and stress management as preventative medicine.
There’s just too much research on this topic for you to be left in the dark, so read on for actionable steps you can take to lower your blood pressure and decrease your risk of things like heart attack and stroke.
*Disclaimer: Consult with your medical doctor before following any diet, exercise, or supplementation, especially if you are already taking prescription medications or blood thinners, as some of these natural remedies contain blood thinning components.
Top Foods for Blood Pressure
It’s no mystery that the foundation of a heart healthy diet is nutrient dense whole foods. Whole foods = YES :) Processed foods = NO :( but to learn more about what exactly whole foods are and which ones to eat, check out Starting a Whole Foods Diet.
Watch this incredible video from Michael Greger, MD explaining how you can reduce your risk of heart disease by 90%:
Focusing on certain types of foods for heart health is also important. Here are foods and spices and their corresponding phytochemicals/antioxidants that help control blood pressure:
- Red foods including red berries, cherries, red apples, red grapes, blood oranges, beets, tomatoes, red cabbage, red onions, red beans, red kidney beans: anthocyanins
- Blue/purple foods including berries, plums, purple grapes, eggplant: anthocyanins
- Pomegranates, beets: nitrates
- Dark leafy greens (like these), especially kale: calcium, magnesium, vitamin K
- Cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, bok choy: sulforaphane
- Garlic and onions: allicin
- Celery: apigenin
- Apple cider vinegar, sweet potatoes (boiling brings down the glycemic load compared to roasting or baking), mushrooms, pomegranate: potassium
- Cashews, almonds, brazil nuts: magnesium
- Almonds, red/purple grapes, acai, cacao, dark chocolate, red wine: resveratrol
- Spices including ginger, turmeric, cayenne, garlic: anti-inflammatory compounds
- Seaweed: bioactive peptides
- Healthy fats including coldwater wild caught fish, grass-fed meat and butter, ghee, olive/coconut/flax oil, organic pastured eggs, nuts and nut butters, seeds (chia, hemp, flax, pumpkin, sunflower), avocados: omegas aka essential fatty acids (EFAs), polyphenols
- Proteins including plain greek yogurt, raw milk, and fermented dairy: calcium, magnesium, vitamin D
- Fermented foods: probiotics, vitamin K2
*for more on the benefits of probiotics for blood pressure, please go HERE.
Studies show that eating 5 or more servings of fiber rich fruits and veggies daily, greatly reduces risk of heart disease and stroke compared to less than 3 servings per day.
Watch this incredible video from Michael Greger, MD explaining how high dietary fiber intake may prevent strokes:
An Important Note on Sodium
Sodium is indicated as a total no no with high blood pressure but medical studies have been confusing at the very least. There is sufficient evidence to prove that both a diet too high or too low in sodium can have adverse effects on the body. Research is establishing sodium to potassium ratio is most important.
It makes more sense then, to focus on raising potassium levels to lower blood pressure. So before you cut out all salt intake, or reduce it too drastically, doing your research will allow you to make an informed decision.
I’m not talking about table salt, or iodized salt (which is found in processed foods), I don’t recommend it at all. On the other hand, himalayan salt or celtic sea salt are rich sources of beneficial minerals necessary to sustain many important functions within the body, which you can read more about here (Pink Himalayan Salt Benefits).
An Important Note on Sugar
Sugar raises blood pressure and the amount of sugar consumed in the American diet tops sodium intake by a long shot. When fructose is being metabolized the body produces uric acid which raises blood pressure. Yet, the focus is on salt reduction, not sugar reduction.
An Important Note on Red Meat
Another common food we are told to avoid is red meat. There needs to be clarification here since not all red meat is the same. The nutrient contained in grass-fed meats is far superior to that of conventional grain-fed meats. Before you banish all red meat from your diet, it’s worth getting informed so you can make the best decision, and always remember, moderation is key here, not red meat with every meal.
An Important Note on Caffeine
The effect of caffeine on blood pressure is debatable, but worth mentioning. There may be little to no strong effect on blood pressure in habitual coffee drinkers, although the possibility of a slight blood pressure increase exists – the chronic effects just aren’t clear. In people who rarely consume caffeine though, it can raise blood pressure by as much as 10 mmHg, due to the spike in blood sugar.
The only way to know for sure if caffeine affects your blood pressure is to check it within 30 minutes of drinking caffeine and if your pressure increases by 5-10 mmHg, then you’ll know you may be sensitive to it.
To be on the safe side I always recommend adding a healthy fat like ghee, grass-fed butter, or coconut oil to your coffee to avoid the blood sugar spike.
Top Natural Remedies for Blood Pressure
I’m a fan of getting as many nutrients as possible from live foods, but if you need additional help these remedies can be lifesavers. The first four nutrients listed are pretty standard and strongly suggested to manage blood pressure and heart health in general, from there I recommend choosing one of the herbal remedies in addition to start. If it’s working for you…great! If not, try a different remedy until you find the one for you (remember to consult your physician first, especially if taking medication).
1. Fish Oil – Studies show reduced inflammation and reduction in blood pressure when taken long-term, generally using 2,000-4,000 mg daily for up to one year. Quality is important when choosing a fish oil, it should be free of heavy metals and PCBs, and contain high amounts of the active constituents EPA and DHA.
2. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) – Studies have shown significant drops in blood pressure using 100-300 mg. This nutrient gets more depleted as we age and when taking certain cholesterol lowering medications like statins, and others.* A CoQ10 supplement in an oil base is key for absorption since it’s fat soluble. Also, taking it with a meal that includes healthy fats will help your body absorb it best.
*for a cardiologist’s list of medications that deplete CoQ10 & the CoQ10 dosage you need, see HERE.
3. Magnesium – Many people with high blood pressure are deficient in this mineral, in fact it’s one of the leading nutrient deficiencies in adults with an estimated 80% of adults being deficient. Magnesium helps to transport calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes, and helps with muscle contractions, nerve impulse, blood pressure, and normal heart rhythms. Ionic liquids absorb best.
Caution: A side benefit to magnesium supplementation is regularity, so it’s best to start slowly and if loose stools develop, back off the amount – it just means you need less.
4. Potassium – This mineral is important in controlling blood pressure because it balances the effects of sodium. But too much potassium can be harmful in older people or people with kidney disorders, as it affects the balance of fluids in the body, which is why you find most supplements at 99 mg. It’s important to consult your doctor first if you want to take more than that, and you want to drink lots of water to help with fluid balance.
5. Garlic – Studies show that it relaxes smooth muscles, including arteries and lowers blood pressure. The best garlic supplement is aged garlic with a high allicin yield.
Favorite: Kyolic Garlic
6. Cayenne – Helps lower blood pressure by expanding blood vessels and improving blood flow which takes pressure off arterial walls. I recommend starting out with a lower HU (heat unit), along with Cool Cayenne which is gentler on the stomach, since it uses a proprietary Bio-Cool process, with ginger added. Definitely take this with food, not on an empty stomach.
Favorite: Solaray Cool Cayenne 40,000 HU
7. Olive Leaf – Studies show reduction in blood pressure and triglycerides (bad cholesterol). Look for quality sources that contain significant amounts of bio-active oleuropein, the active component.
Favorite: Nature’s Way Olive Leaf 20% Oleuropein
8. Hawthorn – Studies show that it helps relax arteries, helps regulate blood circulation and blood pressure. You can make a tea with the berries (it is bitter though) by adding a teaspoon of dried berries or powder to a cup of boiling water and steeping for 10 minutes. 3 cups a day is recommended to improve blood circulation. Standardized is important when choosing a hawthorn supplement.
9. Hibiscus – Studies show significant drops in blood pressure over the course of a month, on average. You can make a tea by adding a teaspoon of flowers to a cup of boiling water and steeping for 10 minutes, or you can get hibiscus teabags, either way 3 cups a day is recommended. Results were also seen taking 250 mg daily.
* Update: When it comes to overall heart health, the natural enzyme nattokinase has been researched and proven to be effective for a number of things including lowering blood pressure, breaking down arterial plaque, and dissolving blood clots. Read the full review here.
Lifestyle Tips to Reduce Blood Pressure
Engage in regular physical activity like brisk walking, various types of cardiovascular exercise, and strength training on a regular basis, which all get your heart rate up and improve circulation. Yoga is one of the best ways to get exercise and relieve stress at the same time.
Utilize stress reduction techniques like being outdoors in nature, yoga, meditation, tai chi, qigong, massage, EFT (tapping), taking baths, aromatherapy (good essential oils for blood pressure are lavender, clary sage, ylang ylang, and frankincense), curling up with a good book, listening to music, cuddling a pet, anything that makes you feel joyful, happy, and peaceful, which naturally lowers blood pressure.
Get enough sleep by creating a relaxing bedroom environment, going to bed at a decent time, and getting at least 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep if possible. You can get more tips on sleep here (7 Simple Tips to Sleep Better).
How Long Does it Take to See Results?
I wish I could give you an exact time frame, but obviously, it’s different for everyone. Your results depend on how diligent you are with making positive diet and lifestyle improvements and how committed you are to regularly taking your supplements. The good news is most studies show that when you do these things, blood pressure has the ability to lower within a one month period. How’s that for great news?!
Did you just find out you have high blood pressure or other heart conditions? If so, do you think you will try these tips and natural remedies? Any other recommendations to lower blood pressure? Please share in the comments below!