7 Lifestyle changes that can help lower your blood pressure

7 Lifestyle changes that can help lower your blood pressure

7 Lifestyle changes that can help lower your blood pressure

Most experts agree that managing high blood pressure is much more about lifestyle changes vs. medication: 70 percent vs. 30 percent by most estimates. Implementing some of these simple lifestyle shifts can have a big impact.

Natalie Doche
Last updated:
December 15, 2022
5 min read
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Let’s talk about blood pressure. You’ve definitely heard the term and most likely have had yours tested at a doctor’s appointment sometime in the last year (a technician or nurse straps a cuff on your upper arm and uses a stethoscope—you know the drill).  

Blood pressure refers to the pressure of blood pushing against the artery walls and is an indicator of our heart health. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a common condition where the blood pushing against the artery walls is too high, which, over time, causes damage to the arteries. Nearly half of American adults have high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and only one in four have it under control. Untreated hypertension can significantly increase the risks of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Normal, elevated, and high pressure: What’s the difference?

Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg), and two numbers are involved in measuring blood pressure. Systolic blood pressure, the top number in your blood pressure reading, represents the pressure in the blood vessels when the heart beats. Diastolic blood pressure is the bottom number in the reading, which means the pressure in the blood vessels when your heart is resting or is in between beats.

·  Normal blood pressure = lower than 120/80 mmHg

·  Elevated blood pressure = between 120/80 and 139/89 mmHg

·  High blood pressure = above 140/89mmHg

Lifestyle changes to help manage your blood pressure

The good news is there are things you can do to keep your blood pressure in check. Medication can help, too, but most experts agree that managing high blood pressure is much more about lifestyle changes vs. medication: 70% vs. 30% by many estimates. So don’t stress if your blood pressure is considered elevated or high. Implementing some of these simple lifestyle shifts can have a big impact on lowering your numbers.

1. Get quality sleep.

Sleep helps your body control the hormones needed to regulate stress and metabolism. Prioritizing sleep will prevent swings in hormones that lead to high blood pressure. Also, your blood pressure naturally goes down while you’re sleeping. If you’re not getting at least 7 hours of sleep, work on your sleep hygiene to help you get the zzzs you need. Another concern: If you think you have sleep apnea (frequent snoring is a good signal that you might), get tested and treated. People with sleep apnea stop breathing multiple times per hour, which impacts heart health, blood pressure, and body weight. 

2. Get moving.

Being physically active is a great way to help lower your blood pressure. In fact, according to the American College of Sports Medicine, regular activity can lower blood pressure by 5-7mmHg in people with hypertension. That’s enough to reduce the risk of heart disease by 20%-30%! All you need is 30 minutes of moderate-level movement, such as brisk walking, bicycling, and gardening, at least five days a week. Strength training helps, too. You can even divide your 30 minutes into ten-minute blocks. And if you love how movement makes you feel, adding another 15-30 minutes to your routine will benefit your blood pressure and body in multiple ways.

3. Keep striving toward your goal weight.

Research shows there is a strong correlation between blood pressure and body weight. Excess body weight can make your heart work harder, putting stress on your arteries and increasing your blood pressure. Losing weight may reduce your blood pressure. For every 2.2 pounds (or about 1 kilogram) you lose, you may expect your blood pressure to drop by 1 mm Hg, according to the Mayo Clinic. 

And if you’re prescribed medication to help with weight loss, it may have an additional protective effect on your heart, too. A November 2023 study on semaglutide, the ‘Semaglutide and Cardiovascular Outcomes in Patients with Overweight or Obesity Who Do Not Have Diabetes’ (SELECT) trial, found that weekly injections of semaglutide improved cardiovascular health more than would be expected from just weight loss. In addition to suppressing appetite, semaglutide reduces inflammation and lowers your blood sugar and cholesterol, which can lower blood pressure. The SELECT trial found that people treated with semaglutide reduced their relative risk of a cardiovascular event by 20%.

4. Eat right.

The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) has long been used as an effective way to reduce blood pressure. You can use it as a model for healthy eating (apply DASH principles as a guide for healthy choices within your favorite cuisines). This diet is low in processed foods and added sugars and high in fiber. It focuses on vegetables, fruits, and dairy with moderate amounts of whole grains, fish, poultry, and nuts. The DASH approach to eating makes a difference: In a study comparing the impact of different diets over 8 weeks, people who ate a diet based on DASH principles reduced their blood pressure by over 5 mmHg. Eating whole foods is one of the best ways to get your blood pressure in check. Here are two BP-lowering nutrients to look for:

  • Potassium. This nutrient can limit the effects of sodium by flushing salt out through your urine. Good sources of potassium include sweet potatoes, spinach and other greens, bananas, mushrooms, raisins, dates, lima beans, and peas.
  • Vitamin C: Vitamin C contains antioxidants that protect the linings of your blood vessels. Fruits like kiwi and strawberries and veggies like broccoli, kale, tomatoes, and sweet red peppers all provide a healthy dose of vitamin C.

5. Be choosy when you eat out.

Restaurant meals and processed foods account for up to 75% of sodium in most diets, and getting less sodium and adequate potassium and calcium is crucial for keeping blood pressure healthy. The American Heart Association recommends a maximum of 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day, ideally aiming for a limit of 1,500 milligrams per day. (To show you how much that is, a teaspoon of table salt has about 2,400 milligrams of sodium.) 

Most people don’t have to worry as much about the salt they use in homemade meals. (Use kosher salt instead of table salt—by volume, kosher salt has less sodium.) And eating less sodium doesn’t have to make your food taste less delicious. Use herbs, spices, chiles, garlic, onion, vinegar, lemon, and lime to add extra flavor to your food. Choosing fresh foods and low-sodium products will also help keep your intake down. Watch out for sneaky foods containing a lot of sodium—bread and sandwiches are two examples.

6. Limit alcohol and stop smoking.

Changing your habits around drinking and smoking can also have a significant impact on your BP. Nicotine makes your blood vessels narrow and makes your heart work harder. And if you’re a heavy drinker, enjoying alcohol in moderate amounts instead—one a day for women, two for men—can drop your systolic blood pressure (the top number) by 5.5 mmHg. The bottom line is that cutting back on alcohol and cigarettes is one of the best things you can do for your health, not just your blood pressure.

7. Manage stress.

Researchers are still studying the connections between stress and hypertension. Doctors do know that when we’re stressed, our bodies release hormones that cause blood vessels to constrict. And when we’re constantly stressed, it leads to higher blood pressure. (Some of those stress hormones also trigger weight gain.) Managing stress isn’t just something to do in the heat of the moment, but something you need to do daily for a healthy body. Spending time in the woods helps reduce blood pressure (thank you, trees!), or you can also practice meditation, daily gratitude, art, or  movement like yoga, tai chi, or chi gong.

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Published date:
December 15, 2022
Meet the author
Natalie Doche
Senior community manager


  • Zaleski, Amanda. Exercise for the Prevention and Treatment of Hypertension - Implications and Application. American College of Sports Medicine, 27 February 2019. https://www.acsm.org/blog-detail/acsm-certified-blog/2019/02/27/exercise-hypertension-prevention-treatment
  • Appel, Lawrence J., et al. for the DASH Collaborative Research Group. A Clinical Trial of the Effects of Dietary Patterns on Blood Pressure. New England Journal of Medicine, 17 April 1997, Vol. 336, pp. 1117-1124. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejm199704173361601
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  • Cytowic, Richard E. Stressed Out? Science Says Look At Some Trees. Psychology Today, 16 May 2016. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-fallible-mind/201605/stressed-out-science-says-look-some-trees
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