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How to Lower Blood Pressure in 11 Easy Steps

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    Stop Smoking

    "We know that smoking raises blood pressure and contributes to heart and other diseases," says Carabello. Quitting the sticks has the largest impact on your health, especially when it comes to lowering your blood pressure. But come on, you knew that already, right?

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    Exercise

    By now, you know that exercise makes your heart stronger, so it can pump blood more effortlessly. How does this lower your blood pressure? "As you exercise, blood vessels open," Carabello says. "This ability to dilate blood vessels to increase blood flow continues even after exercise." When the heart works less, the pressure into the arteries decreases, thus lowering your blood pressure. In fact, just moving more can work as well as some medications, lowering your systolic blood pressure (that's the top number) by 4 to 9 points, according to the Mayo Clinic.

    There really isn't a specific Rx for exercising to lower blood pressure, but the time guidelines offered by the American Heart Association are a good place to start: at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise (or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity). Thirty minutes a day, five times a week is an easy goal to remember.

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    Eat Whole Foods

    Two specific diets have been linked to lower blood pressure again and again. The first, the DASH or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet has been shown to reduce high blood pressure an average of 11.4 systolic points and 5.5 diastolic points. And while the DASH diet may be the gold standard when it comes to dietary approaches for lowering blood pressure, the Mediterranean diet also holds a lot of food-as-medicine credibility too. What do both diets have in common? Both emphasize consumption of vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains, and quality proteins, such as fish, chicken, and turkey. But another thing they share is that they are whole diet approaches, instead of an approach that limits only dietary fat.

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    Especially Fruits and Vegetables

    Harness the power of plants: Adopting a vegetarian diet can reduce your blood pressure by nearly 7 points—about the same as losing 11 pounds, says JAMA Internal Medicine. How? One Japanese study suggests that the high potassium and low sodium levels in fruits and vegetables help regulate blood pressure. Another possibility is that the weight loss that occurs when on these diets also contributes to their antihypertensive effects.

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    Especially Purple Foods

    While you're loading up on fruits and veggies, pay extra attention to the purple ones: beets and pomegranates to be exact. Consider this:

    • Seventeen ounces of beet juice can drop your blood pressure by 5 points in just six hours, according to an Australian study. Turns out the nitrates in the root relax blood vessels and improve blood flow.
    • Pomegranate juice acts as a natural ACE inhibitor, reducing the activity of an enzyme that raises blood pressure by 36 percent, according to a study done by Israeli researchers. The same researchers found that people with high blood pressure who drank about 2 ounces of pomegranate juice a day reduced their blood pressure by 5 percent after just two weeks.
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    Spice Things Up

    Sprinkling a little cinnamon—just 2 grams or about a half a teaspoon—into your daily diet may help lower blood pressure, suggests an analysis in the journal Nutrition. After examining the results of three studies, the authors determined that cinnamon measurably lowered both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in adults with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. And research published in the Archives of Pharmacal Research has shown that cinnamon contains powerful antioxidant substances that promote optimal blood vessel health and support heart function.

    It's easy to make these findings work for you: Sprinkle a half a teaspoon into your coffee, over your yogurt or oatmeal, onto your tacos, and into your hot cocoa.

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    Get Enough Vitamin D

    Vitamin D is a major player when it comes to your heart's health. In fact, low vitamin D levels can trigger a rise in blood pressure, according to a European Society of Human Genetics meta-analysis of 35 studies that included 108,173 participants. Confused? Vitamin D regulates the production of the hormone renin, a hormone that helps maintain blood pressure, in the kidneys. When your vitamin D levels are low, your renin levels can run amok.

    What's more: For every 10 percent increase in blood concentrations of vitamin D, hypertension risk decreased 8.1 percent, the paper's researchers wrote. Simply raising blood levels of the vitamin from 30 to 50 ng/mL would lower the risk of hypertension by more than half. Talk to your doctor about your vitamin D levels in relation to how to lower blood pressure.

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    Skip Sweeteners

    Sure you already knew that sugar leads to obesity, but did you know that it contributes directly to high blood pressure, too? Researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand analyzed 39 clinical trials and found sugar intake raised both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

    It's not just table sugar you should shun; other sweet stuff like fructose can wreak havoc on your system. Drinking 2.5 cans of non-diet soda daily could increase your likelihood of getting high blood pressure by at least 30 percent, says a Journal of the American Society of Nephrology study.

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    Limit Your Happy Hours

    "Drinking one or two drinks a day can be beneficial, but more than that can raise your blood pressure," says Carabello. You heard the doc: No more than two a day, ladies.

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    Get Some Shut-Eye

    "Many people with high blood pressure have undiagnosed sleep apnea," Carabello says. "But not getting enough sleep can play with the hormones responsible for raising blood pressure, whether it's apnea-induced or not." Work with your health care professional to see why you may not be sleeping at night, and check out these sleep apnea symptoms.

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    Relax!

    When you're stressed, your body produces a surge of hormones that makes your heart beat faster and your blood vessels constrict, ultimately increasing blood pressure. Meditation can help. According to Psychosomatic Medicine, the practice resulted a 4.8-point drop in systolic blood pressure (top number) and a 1.9-point drop in diastolic blood pressure.

    Want to know how to lower blood pressure through meditation? We have your beginner's guide.