How to Lower Your Blood Pressure

Healthy lifestyle choices and regular check-ups help keep the pressure down

If you are someone who does not go to the doctor regularly or does not get your blood pressure checked, you could have high blood pressure without knowing it. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is called the "silent killer" because very often there are no symptoms. Over time, you may not be aware that it is damaging your arteries, heart, kidneys and other organs. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attack, stroke, heart failure and kidney failure.

The good news is that with the help of your primary care doctor and a few lifestyle improvements, you can keep your blood pressure within a healthy range.

Lifestyle tips to lower blood pressure

Your doctor will help you decide if you need blood pressure medication, but you can take steps yourself to help prevent high blood pressure or even reduce your need to take medication.

Lifestyle changes that can help with high blood pressure include:

  • Eating a healthy diet that is low in salt
  • Getting regular physical activity
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Managing stress
  • Avoiding tobacco smoke
  • Limiting alcohol

Learn how to check your blood pressure at home to monitor your own efforts.

Movement to lower blood pressure

Aerobic activities increase your heart rate and breathing rate, making your heart stronger. When your heart is stronger, it takes less effort to pump the blood through your body. This helps to lower the blood pressure. To keep your blood pressure low, you need to keep exercising. It takes about 1-3 months for regular exercise to have an impact on your blood pressure.

If you do not regularly exercise, ask your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.

Think F.I.T.T.

Frequency: 5 days a week

Intensity: moderate to get your heart rate up

Time: start with 10 minutes, working up to 60 minutes

Type: walking, biking, dancing, swimming, playing at the park, chair exercises, golf, basketball and hiking

Exercise tips

  • Track your progress by writing down your physical activity each day.
  • Use reminders to exercise, such as scheduling it on your calendar or leaving your exercise shoes by the door.
  • Reward yourself for sticking to your exercise plan, by going to a movie or buying a new pair of exercise shoes.
  • Find a group class or a buddy to workout with or go on walks.

Using the DASH diet to lower blood pressure

The DASH diet stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It is a pattern of eating foods with less salt and more magnesium, potassium, and calcium. It is designed to help lower blood pressure within two weeks of starting the plan. DASH focuses on eating fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy, while decreasing processed foods and added salt.

Daily plan

Fruits: 4-5 servings

Vegetables: 4-5 servings

Whole grains: 6 servings

Low-fat dairy: 2-3 servings

Meat, poultry, fish: 1-2 servings

Nuts, seeds, dry beans: 3-4 servings per week

Sweets: no more than 5 small servings per week

Serving sizes

  • Fruits: 1 medium fruit the size of a tennis ball, ½ cup of fresh or frozen fruit, ¼ cup of dried fruit
    • apricots, bananas, dates, grapes, oranges, grapefruit, mangoes, melons, peaches, pineapples, prunes, raisins, and strawberries
  • Vegetables: 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables, ½ cup of raw or cooked vegetables
    • tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, green peas, squash, broccoli, artichokes, green beans, sweet potatoes and bell peppers
  • Whole grains: 1 slice of bread, ½ bagel, ½ cup cooked pasta or rice or cereal or grains
    • Whole wheat bread and English muffins, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, barley, quinoa, oatmeal
  • Low-fat dairy: 1 cup milk, 1 ounce of cheese, ½ cup yogurt
  • Meat, poultry, fish: a piece the size of a deck of cards or computer mouse
    • Lean cuts, trim away visible fat, remove skin from poultry, bake or roast instead of frying
  • Nuts and seeds: ¼ cup of nuts or seeds, 2 Tbsp peanut butter, ½ cup cooked dry beans or lentils
  • Sweets: 1 Tbsp sugar or jelly, 1 small cookie, 2-inch square brownie or cake
  • Salt: no more than a total of 1 teaspoon of table salt (2,300 milligrams), including added salt and the salt found in foods or used for cooking

Tips to get started

  • Buy fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables
  • Choose whole grains, like whole wheat bread and pasta and quinoa
  • Drink milk for lunch and dinner instead of pop or juice
  • Eat a serving of nuts, seeds, or beans every other day
  • Get recipe ideas from the Henry Ford HeartSmart® Cookbook
  • Plan meals and snacks ahead of time
  • Plan your meals starting with a fruit and vegetable at each meal
  • Use reduced-salt or no-salt-added condiments and food products
  • When eating out, avoid adding salt to foods
  • Write down what you eat

Learn about our Blood Pressure Recheck Clinics and how they can help you monitor your blood pressure.

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The Henry Ford Medical Group is a proud participant of the Measure Up Pressure Down national campaign to improve blood pressure detection, prevention and control.

Looking for more information?

Talk to your primary care doctor, or find a doctor