Unfortunately, there is no quick way to lower blood pressure without medical intervention. The best way to lower blood pressure is with long-term behavioural changes—like reducing stress, getting better sleep, exercising, and eating a low-sodium diet—but this takes time. Certain medications can also help.
It’s possible to get an artificially high BP reading at home. Making sure you correctly measure your blood pressure is key and can lower your results immediately.
In this article, learn more about how to lower your BP and take an accurate measurement.
Blood pressure is measured with an inflatable cuff and device called a sphygmomanometer. Usually, this is placed around your upper arm above your elbow. For some people, it may be placed at the wrist.
As the cuff is tightened and then released, the systolic pressure (the pressure against artery walls as the heart contracts) and diastolic pressure (the lowest pressure in the arteries between heart contractions) are measured.
How can you quickly lower your blood pressure?
There is no real way to quickly get your blood pressure down at home. If you have hypertension, it’s important to make long-term lifestyle and behavioural changes and even consider medication if a healthcare provider recommends it.
Take Your Blood Pressure Reading Correctly
If you’re taking your BP at home, it’s important to ensure you take it correctly.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the following factors might cause an unusually high BP reading:
Anxiety or nervousness about having your blood pressure taken (also called white coat syndrome)
Crossing your legs during the measurement
Letting your arm droop down your side during the measurement
Smoking before measurement
Drinking alcohol or caffeine before measurement
Exercising or physically exerting yourself in the 30 minutes before measurement
To take your blood pressure accurately, be sure to follow the guidance below:
Avoid eating or drinking 30 minutes before the measurement.
Empty your bladder before measurement.
Sit and rest in a comfortable chair for at least five minutes before the measurement.
Keep legs uncrossed and feet flat on the floor during the measurement.
Rest your arm with the cuff on it at chest height on a table or other supportive surface.
Do not talk during measurement.
Avoid loud noises in the environment around you during measurement (i.e., turn off the TV and radio and ask others who are present to be quiet).
Ensure the cuff is positioned correctly against bare skin.
If you get a high blood pressure reading at home, try the steps above again and retake your blood pressure before worrying or calling for medical help. You may find that your BP is significantly lower by using the correct positioning.
Avoid drinking coffee before measuring
Unlike alcohol, which can raise your BP long-term, caffeine increases your blood pressure temporarily. According to research, your blood pressure can be elevated for up to three hours after drinking coffee.
In order to get the most accurate BP reading, avoid drinking coffee (or any caffeinated beverages) three hours before measurement. The good news is you don’t have to cut out coffee entirely.
Stress reduction techniques
A stressful situation can raise your blood pressure temporarily, and chronic stress can raise your BP long-term. This is why stress management is one of the best ways to naturally lower blood pressure. However, “stressing less” is easier said than done.
The following stress-reduction techniques may help you lower your BP:
Deep breathing techniques
Mindfulness meditation and other mindfulness-based techniques
Using a planner, calendar, or to-do list for better time management
Therapy or counselling
Crafting, walking, or another hobby or meaningful occupation
If you have persistent hypertension, your healthcare provider may recommend a medication to lower your blood pressure.
The five types of medication used to lower blood pressure include:
Calcium channel blockers
Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
Angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs)
It is essential to follow your healthcare provider’s instructions with any medication. Often, you have to take hypertension medication at the same time each day for the best results.
If a person is in hypertensive crisis (a dangerous, sudden spike in blood pressure in which the systolic pressure (the top number) is 180 millimetres of mercury (mmHg) or higher, and/or the diastolic pressure (the bottom number) is 120 mmHg or higher), they require immediate medical attention.
Medical treatment may involve delivering hypertensive drugs intravenously (into the vein).
Getting poor-quality sleep can increase your risk of high blood pressure. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends six to eight hours of sleep per night to avoid cardiovascular (heart) issues.
If you have trouble getting enough quality sleep, consider talking to your healthcare provider. They may recommend a sleep study to see if there are other underlying causes, like sleep apnea, or lifestyle changes to encourage better sleep habits.
Smoking increases your risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. Quitting smoking could make a big difference in your blood pressure.
Even switching to a less harmful alternative, like e-cigarettes, could benefit BP. One study found that smokers that reduced or quit smoking by switching to e-cigarettes effectively lowered their BP long-term.
Reduce alcohol consumption
Alcohol can raise your blood pressure. Try to reduce your alcohol consumption, especially if you’re already at risk or have high blood pressure. The CDC recommends men drink no more than two alcoholic drinks daily, and women no more than one.
There is strong evidence to support regular exercise and physical activity as a way to lower blood pressure.
The AHA recommends adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic physical activity weekly. Two days of muscle-strengthening exercises per week is also recommended.
Some ways to get this exercise in include:
Walking or hiking
Barre, Pilates, or yoga classes
Change your diet
People with high blood pressure are often told to eat less salt. Reducing the sodium in your diet can be difficult because many foods that you don’t think of as salty actually contain a lot of sodium. You’ll have to adjust your diet and monitor food labels; a dietitian can help with this.
According to one systematic review, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is the most effective dietary approach to lowering blood pressure. This diet was created and funded by the National Institute of Health’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), and involves limiting sodium to 2,300 milligrams a day; limiting fried, sugary, fatty, and processed foods; and eating more foods that are rich in magnesium, calcium, and potassium.
If you are overweight and have hypertension, losing weight could help normalise your blood pressure. According to the CDC, this is because, with less body fat, your heart will undergo less stress pumping blood throughout the body.
Can drinking water lower blood pressure?
Drinking enough water provides us with the optimal amount of fluids for our heart to pump without stressing it. Too little water can cause your blood pressure to lower or rise.
Being dehydrated can cause low BP or orthostatic hypotension (a drop in BP when changing position) due to low blood volume. Chronic dehydration, on the other hand, can lead to hypertension because your body reacts by constricting vessels.
Drinking a glass of water likely isn’t going to immediately affect your blood pressure. However, maintaining optimal hydration can help manage your blood pressure in the long term.
Taking a blood pressure reading at home
If you have high blood pressure, your healthcare provider has probably asked you to monitor your BP at home. Don’t worry, you don’t have to learn how to use a manual sphygmomanometer. Nowadays, there are plenty of automatic BP monitors that you can use in the comfort of your own home that just require some positioning and the click of a button.
However, the downside is these devices can be less accurate than manual measurement. Be sure to follow the positioning and environmental instructions for accurate results.
You also want to be sure you take your BP at the same time each day and that it is correctly positioned on your arm. Each device is different, so follow the instructions on yours, or ask your healthcare provider to show you how at your next office or home visit.
Normal blood pressure by age
Normal blood pressure is considered to be less than 120/80 mm Hg. The AHA’s BP guidelines do not specify any changes in normal blood pressure recommendations depending on age.
Your healthcare provider will closely monitor your blood pressure during pregnancy. Existing high blood pressure can worsen during pregnancy, or new high BP (preeclampsia) may occur.
There are many ways to lower blood pressure, but none is quick. Changes in diet, weight loss, exercise, medication, stress reduction, quitting smoking and alcohol, and improving sleep quality can all lower your BP long term.
In the short term, be sure you are measuring your blood pressure correctly. Incorrect positioning, a full bladder, or physical activity immediately before a measurement can give an artificially high reading.
A word of wellness
Having a high BP reading can be frightening, and it’s only natural to look for a quick fix to bring that reading down. Apart from medical intervention in an emergency setting, there is no way to bring BP down quickly. If you want to lower your blood pressure, it’s worth putting in the work long term with lifestyle and behavioural changes and any recommended medication.
This story first appeared on www.verywellhealth.com
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