Lowering blood pressure without medication
January 14, 2021 6:46 AM   Subscribe

I have read many articles on the interwebs about lowering blood pressure but I want to hear from real people. Have you lowered your blood pressure without medication? What did you do? What did you stop doing? How much did you lower your blood pressure, and how long did it take?

At the moment, I eat 3 squares a day, between 10:30 and 8:30, and stay hydrated. I do not drink alcohol or caffeine, don't smoke, and rarely eat fast food. Still my blood pressure has been higher than it should be for some time, so farewell to desserts, candy, chips, etc. I am also giving up other salty and sugary foods for at least a month and plan to become more physically active.

Will that be enough? Guess I will find out. In the meantime, please share your success story if you have been able to reduce your blood pressure without medication. If you tried but failed and want to share your story as a cautionary tale, that's good too. Thanks, hive mind!
posted by Bella Donna to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: For me, eliminating salty/sugary treats had no effect. Adding lots of fiber to diet had some effect. Getting cardio exercise almost every day had by far the biggest effect. (Nb I currently still take meds so I can't say I'm a full success story but I'm pretty sure I can stop once the pandemic ends and I can exercise more).
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:55 AM on January 14, 2021 [6 favorites]

Best answer: my partner added an evening beer to his routine (which was and is otherwise pretty dry; we don't really drink.) He did find that he would get better readings the morning after a beer than without. Also things that reliably improved sleep, like a better mattress and white noise, improved the morning reading. (He already did significant daily cardio and ate healthy so this wasn't something we could tinker with.)

However, the beer and sleep, while contributing to better readings, did not effect a sufficiently great or reliable improvement; he eventually went on the meds in addition.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:58 AM on January 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I had a period of higher blood pressure (my BP had always run low up until then) when I was under quite a bit of stress, was exhausted and not exercising too much, and had gained weight.

I started exercising more, including higher-intensity cardio-focused exercise, and for me I lost weight, about 30 lbs. The biggest change was the exercise. I also took steps to reduce and manage stress more proactively. Since then none of my readings have been high.

I believe salt only impacts some people - in my family one parent's salt intake has a big impact, on the other it doesn't at all.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:58 AM on January 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Exercise (walking, worked up to running) and eating more vegetables (and less sodium from processed foods) make a big difference for me.
posted by synecdoche at 6:58 AM on January 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I've heard good things about hibiscus tea with a splash of pomegranate juice. A family member has seen the systolic come down by adding that to her daily regimen. And a cup of herbal tea is pretty low-impact; sitting still for a bit with something warm in your hands might do just as much good as whatever antioxidants are.
posted by adekllny at 7:05 AM on January 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If you haven't done this: Make sure to have an at-home BP monitor and take your blood pressure at different times of day to get an average BP over a few weeks' time. Your arm should be elevated (you can put it on an armrest) and alternate arms with each reading.
posted by Elsie at 7:12 AM on January 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My systolic was running in the 160s, and it's now regularly in the 120s, so I've been very successful in lowering it without medication. I switched to a vegan, mostly whole foods diet, as presented in the documentary Forks Over Knives and on their website. With this dietary change, I lost about 80 pounds, but my blood pressure started to go down immediately, even before I lost weight.

Penn Jillette had extremely high blood pressure that couldn't be controlled with medication. His book Presto details how he made dietary changes to get it down (he started with an all-potato diet, but now eats very similarly to the way I do). Some details are here.
posted by FencingGal at 7:38 AM on January 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I had really high blood pressure and I had to go on meds. Then I spent a year going from totally sedentary to doing an exercise I liked that had medium intensity, while taking the meds.

Then I spent another year doing extremely high intensity exercise and losing a lot of weight. After about the first six months I talked to my doc and we lowered my meds dosage once then twice -- basically, stepping down from the high dose.

After it had been about 18 months -- during which I continued high-intensity exercise and got down to a reasonable weight -- I was able to get off the meds completely.

It's been about 6 months since then. At the beginning I was tracking my BP at home, morning and evening, every day. Now I check it for a few days every month or so. And it's fine.

So it's definitely possible but your doc may want you to be on the meds while you're making the lifestyle changes.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:42 AM on January 14, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: How would you feel about getting a dog? It’s not just the dog lowering BP but also the walking you have to do with a dog.
posted by Violet Hour at 7:56 AM on January 14, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Sometimes peoples' blood pressures go down if they treat their previously-untreated sleep apnea - if you think that could be contributing for you it would definitely be worth looking into.
posted by gemutlichkeit at 8:20 AM on January 14, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Stress was a huge factor me, including chronic loneliness and social anxiety. How are your social ties?
posted by Young Kullervo at 8:31 AM on January 14, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I am not a dcotor or medical personnel, so advice are to be taken with plenty of salt... which may be bad for your BP. :D

Cutting snacks doesn't help unless it's a part of weight loss and exercise regimen.

What helps is exercise and good hydration (but not excessive). Extra blood to pump also adds to the blood pressure.

Losing weight usually helps as it's fat and water that gets shed through exercise.

There's nothing wrong in taking light amounts of medication for blood pressure, and lowering your stress. We are in stressful times, and some sort of meditation / relaxation could also help when coupled with an exercise regimen.
posted by kschang at 8:42 AM on January 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My blood pressure was highish 140s/90s and my doctor wanted me to start taking statins which I would have to take from then on. I decided to try fish oil first since I know a few people who have had success with it. I take 1000mg fish oil and one Omega 3-6-9 capsule per day. Blood pressure went to normal within two weeks and has been fine ever since (3 years). Last reading was 120/65. Cholesterol and triglycerides also went down into normal range.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 10:07 AM on January 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Meditation to help manage stress. Lots of methods, pick one, and be as persistent/ consistent as you can.
Do your best to reduce inflammation - reduce sugar, eat a Mediterranean diet. Keep veins and arteries healthier. French fries and fried foods have terrible fats. Animal fats are pretty bad. Do what you can to eat more vegetables; plan the vegetables 1st when you plan meals. Whole grains and fiber seem to help. Reducing/ managing stress helps.
Exercise. Aim for some exercise that increases heart rate, a couple times a week at least.
Music. Music is powerful in affecting mood and outlook, helps you exercise.
Laughter and companionship.
All of these things are recommended by doctors pretty routinely. The only risk is cardio exercise; make sure your doc says it's okay; it almost certainly is.
posted by theora55 at 10:07 AM on January 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Intermittent fasting (18/6)
Keto diet (used the reddit keto calculator for macros, very careful about electrolytes)
Daily 20 minute meditation
Daily 20oz hibiscus tea

Lost 27lbs in 3 months, blood pressure went from ~140/85 to ~115/75. Bulk of BP drop happened in the first two weeks, which was heartening. Good luck!
posted by apparently at 12:32 PM on January 14, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Not me, but my dad (who is 63) has had great success with specific exercise routines for controlling BP. The one I remember him mentioning was interval training.
posted by aecorwin at 1:19 PM on January 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think the effectiveness of ‘self-help’ measures varies with how high your BP is. My understanding is that if your blood pressure is borderline, it’s relatively easy to improve.

In my case; I have had borderline high blood pressure for a couple of years. I already eat a healthy diet, exercise daily; and meditate. HBP readings came as a big surprise and there aren’t a lot of easy apples to pick in terms of remedies. I read a bunch of studies and added some things to my diet that were supposed to help - pistachios, beet juice, blueberries, watermelon - most of which are food items high in potassium. That did not help.

What did help was losing weight. I‘ve now found (through losing and regaining weight) that my body has a natural threshold above which I have high blood pressure and below which I do not.
posted by bq at 2:27 PM on January 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Probably doesn't apply to you, but losing 2/3 of my body weight took me from 140/90 to 90/60 (or sometimes lower). Which means I now take 1-2 grams of NaCl a day to keep it up so I don't pass out.
posted by kathrynm at 4:05 PM on January 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: IAADBNYD: I have seen all of the above listed things help people; and I wholeheartedly recommend good sleep, good exercise, good diet, and less stress (with the caveat that those can all look different to different people).
That said, I would urge you not to look at needing a BP medication as a "failure". For some people, high blood pressure has to do with the shape of your renal arteries, or a genetic quirk that causes blood vessels to harden faster than average. Please, do all the other things, but if your blood pressure is still high, taking a pill to reduce your chance of stroke or heart attack isn't a personal failure.
posted by aint broke at 4:44 PM on January 14, 2021 [16 favorites]

Best answer: ain'tbroke is so right. My partner is a great example. Slender, regular cardio exerciser; eats right; intermittent fasts; good sleep hygiene; looks a lot younger than he is, etc. Still has to take the meds.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:00 PM on January 14, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: he other things, but if your blood pressure is still high, taking a pill to reduce your chance of stroke or heart attack isn't a personal failure

This. Close family member just suffered a brain hemorage and almost died, his blood pressure spiked without warning. The last four years he pretty much did all the stuff described above in the various replies, diets, sports,herbs, and felt so confident in the result he completely stopped BP meds a couple of years ago against drs advice. He will most likely remain impaired at least physically.
posted by 15L06 at 5:04 PM on January 14, 2021 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: MeFites, each answer was super helpful, including the reminder that it's okay to take blood pressure medicine. Unfortunately, I have digestive issues that, fortunately, are not dangerous but are chronic so I don't have any weight to lose and it is something of a struggle these days to keep the weight I have. So losing weight is out for me. Also, three of my four grandparents had strokes and both my parents. Given that, I especially appreciate the reminder that people who eat well (which honestly, I do 85% of the time) and move around might still have a stroke thanks to hypertension.

Message heard! Will explore some of your suggestions but also march off to my new health clinic soon to find out about bp medication. Swedes don't seem to take hypertension as seriously as Americans do, but I am taking it seriously for reals now. Thanks, all!
posted by Bella Donna at 9:11 AM on January 15, 2021

Best answer: IAAD but IANYD...
Plenty of people who do everything wrong health-wise have lovely BP. And many fastidious and healthy people have terrible BP. Follow excellent lifestyle methods for their own reward, but never expect them to have much impact on metrics your doctor can measure. Being healthy is a lot of things. Numbers tell a small part of that picture.
Your heart, brain, and kidneys (and erections if you are male) will benefit massively from good blood pressure. Take as much or as many pills so that - with your own normal (not what you can manage when a gun is to your head) behaviors - your BP is lovely on your worst day of stress.
Think of it this way - if you do the hard work then meds can help you over the finish line, a tailwind of sorts. The goal is not that you do all of this on your own and anyone who implies it is a personal failing to go on meds is a fool.
Typical medications for BP are stupidly cheap and have decades of safety data and are once daily and free of any side effects. You and your doctor can work together to find a regimen of medication that works well for you.
Good Luck.
posted by docpops at 7:30 PM on January 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If available in your area, consult a traditional Chinese medicine doctor / herbalist. One may have other suggestions. The problem is TCM explanation doesn't always translate well to Western terms.
posted by kschang at 1:06 PM on January 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

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