Nearly half of American adults have high blood pressure — many of them do not even know they have it.1 If high blood pressure is left untreated, it can damage your circulatory system and may lead to a heart attack, stroke or other serious health threats.2 That is why it is important to get checked and learn ways to manage high blood pressure if you have it.
Luckily, there are some simple changes you can make to manage high blood pressure from the comfort of your home. Before trying any of our recommendations below, be sure to consult your health care provider to make sure they are right for you.
1. Exercise Regularly
Exercising is one of the best ways to manage high blood pressure naturally because it makes your heart stronger and better at pumping blood, lowering the pressure in your arteries.3 And there are so many options to get your heart rate up at home!
Experts suggest at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (any workout that increases your heart rate) or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week to greatly lower blood pressure.4
Some blood-pumping, at-home workouts can include:
- Taking a brisk walk in your neighborhood
- Completing a workout video in your living room
- Running around the yard with your kids
- Completing household chores
2. Eat a Healthy Diet
Managing high blood pressure at home is possible with a heart-healthy diet. There are even diets specifically designed for lowering blood pressure. The DASH Diet, or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, was developed to lower blood pressure without medication. You can learn more about this diet plan from the Mayo Clinic.
The DASH diet gives you simple steps to help lower high blood pressure with food. For example, by incorporating whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products into your diet, you can help lower your blood pressure. In addition, you should avoid processed foods, sugar, refined carbs and salt — which we talk more about in the next section.
3. Put Down the Salt Shaker
Many Americans are accustomed to a high-salt diet. But did you know eating too much salt can negatively affect your blood pressure? That is because increased sodium intake can hinder the way your kidneys regulate fluid, including blood, leading to increased blood pressure.5
Table salt is not the only source of sodium. Processed meals, natural foods like cheese or seafood, and even some medications can be sneaky sources of salt in your diet. A simple way to limit how much salt you eat is to shop for healthy options: unsalted nuts, fresh fruits, raw vegetables and low-sodium broths. And remember to avoid salty dishes if you grab takeout meals too!
The American Heart Association (AMA) recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of salt a day, but an ideal limit of 1,500 mg per day for most adults. If you can cut back on salt by just 1,000 mg a day, you can greatly improve blood pressure and heart health.6 Reducing salt intake is just one approach to healthy eating and managing high blood pressure.
4. Quit Smoking
Smoking can increase the risk for a buildup of fatty plaque inside the arteries, in which high blood pressure is known to accelerate. Plus, every inhale of cigarette smoke causes a temporary increase in blood pressure.7
If you need a little extra help quitting, the Compass Rose Health Plan offers a free Tobacco Cessation program to help members kick the habit. You can earn 100 reward points for completing the program, too!
5. Limit Alcohol Intake
Did you know drinking too much can raise your blood pressure? Studies have shown consistent alcohol use spanning several days creates a more sustained rise in blood pressure.8
If you drink, aim to limit your consumption to no more than two alcoholic drinks per day for men and no more than one drink per day for women.9 If you are looking to enjoy a tasty beverage after a long day at work, there are many non-alcoholic beverages available to make. Even water with fresh lemon or cucumber slices can be a refreshing drink to sip on — all while lowering your blood pressure!
6. Manage Stress
When life gets stressful, it can take a toll on your body. Stress can lead to unhealthy eating and drinking habits, which can lead to high blood pressure.10
Stress also has a physiological response in the body — the “fight or flight” response. When in uncomfortable situations, our bodies react by releasing stress hormones, making the heart beat faster and constricting blood vessels.11
To help ease the ongoing emotional, mental and physical effects of stress, it is important to learn ways to manage it. These stress-reducing activities are some of the best ways to help lower your blood pressure:
- Yoga or meditation
- Deep breathing exercises
- Take a walk
- Simplify your daily to-do list
- Get more sleep (more on this below)
7. Catch More Z's
According to a study by the Sleep Foundation, adults who sleep fewer than six hours a night have double the risk of stroke or heart attack than those who sleep up to eight hours.12 Experts believe sleep helps your blood regulate stress hormones and keeps your nervous system healthy.
Getting more sleep can be one of the easiest and best ways to help lower blood pressure. To get on the path to better sleep, try these simple changes:
- Turn off the TV and your phone a few hours before bedtime
- Reduce caffeine consumption later in the day
- Reduce long daytime naps
- Create a relaxing sleep environment with a comfortable mattress, cool temperature settings and minimal external noise
Eighty-five percent of Americans consume at least one caffeinated beverage a day.13 This includes your daily cup (or two) of coffee a day or that refreshing lunchtime Diet Coke. While there is still some debate about the direct link between caffeine and high blood pressure, experts still recommend taking everything in moderation and consult your doctor to determine what works best for you.
To see how caffeine affects your blood pressure, check your blood pressure before drinking a caffeinated beverage and again 30 minutes after. If your blood pressure increases by five to ten points, caffeine may have a significant impact on your blood pressure.14 Based on your results, reducing your caffeine intake can be an effective way to help manage your blood pressure.
The eight steps above are some ways you can help lower blood pressure at home so you can live a long and healthy life. If you have more questions about managing your blood pressure, talk to your provider or visit our other blood pressure management resources.
Don’t forget: you can earn 50 points in our Wellness Rewards Program for receiving a biometric screening, which includes a blood pressure check.
1 The Facts About High Blood Pressure (2017, November). American Heart Association: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/the-facts-about-high-blood-pressure
2 Health Threats from High Blood Pressure, (2016, October). American Heart Association: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/health-threats-from-high-blood-pressure
3 15 Natural Ways to Lower Your Blood Pressure. Medical News Today: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318716
4 Exercise: A drug-free approach to lowering high blood pressure (2019, January). Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure/art-20045206
5 How Salt Can Impact Your Blood Pressure, Heart, and Kidneys (2017, June). Cleveland Clinic: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/kidneys-salt-and-blood-pressure-you-need-a-delicate-balance/
6 Shaking the Salt Habit to Lower High Blood Pressure (2016, October). American Heart Association: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/changes-you-can-make-to-manage-high-blood-pressure/shaking-the-salt-habit-to-lower-high-blood-pressure
7 Smoking, High Blood Pressure and Your Health (2016, October). American Heart Association: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/changes-you-can-make-to-manage-high-blood-pressure/smoking-high-blood-pressure-and-your-health
8 High Blood Pressure from Alcohol Consumption (2020, March). Alcohol.org: https://www.alcohol.org/effects/blood-pressure/
9 Limiting Alcohol to Manage High Blood Pressure (2016, October). American Heart Association: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/changes-you-can-make-to-manage-high-blood-pressure/limiting-alcohol-to-manage-high-blood-pressure
10 Stress and Heart Health (2014, June). American Heart Association: https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/stress-and-heart-health
11 Managing Stress to Control High Blood Pressure (2016, October). American Heart Association: https://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/PreventionTreatmentofHighBloodPressure/Managing-Stress-to-Control-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_301883_Article.jsp?appName=MobileApp
12 How Sleep Apnea Affects Blood Pressure. SleepFoundation.org: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-sleep-apnea-affects-blood-pressure
13 Beverage caffeine intakes in the U.S. (2014, January) PubMed.gov: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24189158
14Caffeine: How does it affect blood pressure? (2019, January). Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/expert-answers/blood-pressure/faq-20058543