30% of the world’s population suffers from high blood pressure, 16 million of which live here in the UK. It’s one of the leading preventable factors that cause heart disease, stroke, and heart attacks, yet most people don’t know their blood pressure or how to keep it at a healthy level.
The good news is that, while these numbers are scary, blood pressure is an element of your health you have an immense amount of influence over. Just a few lifestyle tweaks can help you reduce your blood pressure to a healthy level and avoid such a bleak health forecast.
Today, we’re going to guide you through exactly what blood pressure is, what your blood pressure numbers mean, what causes high pressure, and 5 of the best ways to lower it naturally.
What is blood pressure?
Blood pressure is the measurement of how much force your blood pumping around your body is exerting on your artery walls. Each pump (or heartbeat) forces blood around your body - the pressure caused by this active “pump” is called systolic pressure, while a measurement of the pressure taken in between beats is called diastolic pressure.
Blood pressure is constantly in flux, increasing when you’re active or stressed, and decreasing when you’re relaxed and at rest. If you’re nervous, you may find your blood pressure reading is slightly higher than it would be if you were relaxed, but stress should not make a significant difference to your numbers. If you’re feeling extremely stressed or anxious, it can raise it by as much as 10 points.
What do my blood pressure numbers mean?
Whenever you measure your blood pressure, you’ll receive two numbers - one of which is your systolic pressure (the pressure when your heart beats), and the other is your diastolic pressure (the pressure when your heart is at rest).
The number on top of the line is your systolic pressure, and the number below it is your diastolic pressure. The higher number will always be your systolic pressure. When read aloud, blood pressure is read as [systolic pressure] over [diastolic pressure]. For example, 125 over 78.
Is my blood pressure high? The Different Categories Explained
Blood pressure categories are the same for everyone, regardless of weight and height. Here’s how to know if you have high blood pressure:
Low blood pressure: less than 90/60
Normal/ideal blood pressure: 91/61 - 120/80
Elevated blood pressure: 121/81 - 129/80
Stage 1 high blood pressure (hypertension): 130/81 - 139/89
Stage 2 high blood pressure (hypertension): 140-90 or higher
Hypertensive crisis: 181/121 or higher
(If you experience hypertensive crisis without any symptoms, wait 5 minutes and then take your blood pressure again. If you get the same reading, call your doctor or 101. If you have any symptoms such as chest pain, difficulty breathing, blurred vision, and so on, call 999.)
What are the symptoms of high blood pressure and secondary hypertension?
“Hypertension” is the scientific word for high blood pressure, and so symptoms of hypertension may be:
- Looking red, even when you haven’t been in the sun or done any exercise
- Feeling fatigued for no apparent reason
- Unexplained nosebleeds (this can also be caused by pregnancy)
- Feeling unable to catch your breath
- Difficulty sleeping and sleep disorders, such as insomnia and sleep apnea
- Excessive sweating
- Brain fog
“Secondary hypertension” is high blood pressure that is caused (or more often, comes hand-in-hand with) another condition. These conditions include disease of the adrenals or kidneys, obstructive sleep apnea, and thyroid problems (hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism). This type of hypertension is rare since hypertension is usually a cause of other diseases, rather than the other way around. The symptoms of secondary hypertension are usually the same as those for “normal” hypertension, though you may also see a worsening of your condition’s symptoms.
What causes hypertension and secondary hypertension?
High blood pressure is usually caused by a combination of risk factors, that include:
- A diet high in fat and bad cholesterol
- A diet high in salt and sugar
- Being overweight or obese
- Lack of exercise or movement
- Alcohol (more than 1-2 units a day)
- Sleep apnea
Secondary hypertension is usually caused by:
- Kidney disease
- Adrenal disease
- Hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism (the latter often causing a fast heartbeat)
Other risk factors (factors that make you more likely to suffer, but aren’t necessarily a cause) are:
- Being over 50
- Family history of high blood pressure
Can I lower my blood pressure?
As you can see, the majority of risk factors are within your control - you choose what you put in your mouth, whether or not to smoke cigarettes, and how much movement you get throughout the day. That’s not to say it’s always easy to make the right choice - other factors (societal and social pressures, mood disorders, stress, etc.) will impact how easy you find it to make healthy choices.
It’s important to realise that the choices you’ve been making (consciously or otherwise) may be detrimental to your health, but can be changed. Blood pressure can quickly return to a normal range when lifestyle choices are modified - studies have seen it take just 3 days to 4 weeks to return to a normal range.
To help you lower your blood pressure and ingrain new healthy habits that will keep you fit and well long into your twilight years, here are 5 of the best ways to lower your blood pressure naturally.
3 Ways to Lower Your Blood Pressure Naturally
1. Make Dietary Changes
For most people, it’s an unwelcome truth that what gave them high blood pressure in the first place was years of putting unhealthy foods into their mouths. Your first step when looking to lower blood pressure naturally should be to start thinking before you put something into your mouth. Here are some easy tips to implement:
Stop smoking: if you smoke, cut back, switch to vaping, or quit altogether - there are absolutely no health benefits. The good news is your body starts healing itself every time you finish a cigarette, so stub out that last one and make a change. Most people experience notable improvements in lung function after just 1 month of quitting, no matter how long they’ve smoked for.
Focus on fresh: The fresher the food, the fewer preservatives it will contain (which are usually sugar or salt) and the more nutrients it will contain. Focus on eating as much fresh fruit and vegetables as possible and try to cook for yourself at home. There are hundreds of thousands of healthy recipes on the internet, but here’s a good place to start: NutritionStudies.org/Recipes.
Increase fibre intake: Fibre isn’t just good for your digestive system, it also affects the way your body manages blood glucose levels. High fibre foods keep you full for longer and make sure you don’t experience an energy crash. Focus on eating fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, and legumes (beans!).
Lower your intake of dairy and red meat: Numerous studies have found the effects of eating a diet high in red meat and some dairy can put you at a higher risk of high blood pressure and a higher risk of developing cancer. The body also finds it more challenging to metabolise red meat, and the process releases chemicals in the body that further increases blood pressure. Try to opt for lean white meat or vegetarian meals for the majority of your meals.
If you’re looking for some specific foods to add to your diet, studies have found that beetroot, garlic, ginger, and green tea all have beneficial effects on lowering blood pressure.
2. Take Blood Pressure Reducing Supplements
We know that getting a completely balanced diet every day isn’t easy - even if you’re eating incredibly well, it takes meticulous planning and tracking to get all of your nutritious daily needs exclusively through what you eat. While it’s always best to get as much as you can through your food, taking a daily supplement is the best way to be sure you’re getting enough.
Here are some of the vitamins and minerals you should be paying attention to in your diet:
Blood Pressure and Magnesium Taurate
We often get the question “does magnesium taurate lower blood pressure?” Magnesium taurate has become one of the most popular supplements for those looking to control and lower their blood pressure, and we’re happy to say that this isn’t just marketing - studies have shown that taking magnesium taurate orally significantly restores blood pressure when taken in tandem with a healthy diet. To see the benefits of magnesium taurate for blood pressure, it must be taken at doses of more than 500-1,000mg a day. That’s why our magnesium taurate supplement is packed with 1720mg of pure magnesium taurate - you can find that here.
Blood Pressure and Vitamin D
In studies, taking vitamin D for blood pressure has been found to reduce systolic pressure in those over 50 or overweight. As more studies are being done on vitamin D, we’re seeing that a vitamin D deficiency is being linked to a wide range of conditions, so it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough for your overall health, as well as your blood pressure. Getting vitamin D naturally can be difficult if you don’t consciously choose vitamin D-fortified foods or eat fish, beef liver, or egg yolks, so it’s an important supplement to add to your diet if you dislike fish or are vegetarian or vegan. Our Vitamin D3 supplement contains all the daily vitamin D you need, so get that here if you don’t typically eat a lot of fatty fish.
B vitamins B2, B6, and B9 are particularly beneficial for lowering blood pressure. B2 (riboflavin) has been shown to lower blood pressure in adults with a gene mutation that makes them predisposed to high blood pressure, while B9 (folic acid) can help prevent high blood pressure in later life and lower blood pressure in those already diagnosed with heart disease.
Vitamin C is an essential vitamin for many bodily processes, but studies have also found that vitamin C supplements help lower blood pressure when taken at 300mg to 1,000mg a day. Our vitamin C supplement is the easiest way to ensure you’re getting all you need.
Omega 3 fatty acids have a direct effect on lowering blood pressure by activating certain “BK channels” in the body. For us laypeople, that means that eating fish, nuts and seeds, and some fortified foods will help actively lower our blood pressure. If you have a nut allergy, dislike fish, or otherwise don’t get much of this in your diet, it’s best to take an omega 3 supplement like ours, which is made using algae instead of fish sources (so it’s vegan and won’t provoke nut allergies).
2. Move More
Finally, we can’t talk about lowering blood pressure without talking about movement. We’re using the word “movement” here because you don’t have to be getting what we typically think of as exercise to benefit. Frequent low-level activities such as walking, taking the stairs, cleaning the house, gardening, and similar activities are just as beneficial as a workout. In fact, plenty of low-level exercise throughout the day can be more beneficial than an intense workout for an hour first thing in the morning before sitting the rest of the day for your blood pressure.
Regardless of how you like to exercise, try to encourage regular blood flow. Walk around every hour or so, try a standing or treadmill desk if you’re tied to a computer for most of the day, or try to fit in 3 walks a day, one in the morning, one at lunchtime, and one before dinner. Remember, anything more than you’re doing now is better than perfection!
If you incorporate these 3 top tips into your life, you’ll soon start to see the benefits when you check your blood pressure. If you make these lifestyle changes and still don’t feel beneficial effects, talk to your doctor in case there’s something out of your control causing your blood pressure to be high.
If you’re currently taking statins or another medication to help you lower your blood pressure, make sure you monitor your blood pressure daily as you make positive lifestyle changes and keep your doctor updated as it changes. As your blood pressure lowers back into the normal range, your doctor will likely need to lower your dose or help you transition off of the medication, so work closely with your doctor.
Supplementing your diet is the best way to ensure your body gets all the nutrition it needs to function at its best - to get your hands on the beneficial supplements we’ve talked about in this article, click here.