Lower High Blood Pressure Naturally
One out three of Americans has hypertension. Worldwide, statistics are not much better. Thirty-one percent of the world’s population has high blood pressure.
Hypertension (HBP) is called the silent killer because often there is no sign or symptom until one develops a major complication from it—heart attack, stroke, or kidney disease. So how can we defeat this stealthy killer? Better yet, how can we prevent it?
Understand the Numbers
Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of the arteries. Blood pressure rises and falls during the day. Usually there are two numbers in a blood pressure reading. Systolic pressure (represented by the higher number) is the force of blood in the arteries as the heart beats. Diastolic pressure (represented by the lower number) is the force of blood in the arteries as the heart relaxes between beats.
Note in the chart below that what was once considered a good systolic pressure (top number)—120 to 124—is now listed as prehypertension or even as hypertension by some experts. Scary isn’t it? And what is more serious yet, if you have only one of the two figures in the hypertension range, you still have the condition.
Invest in a blood pressure cuff. The electronic models are easy to work, but in order to get an accurate reading; you need to get the appropriate size cuff. Take your blood pressure at least once a week. If you personally have risk factors for hypertension—obesity, smoking, a family history of heart disease, hypertension, or diabetes—take it daily. African Americans tend to get HBP earlier in life and develop more severe HBP. Children at risk for HBP should have their blood pressure checked a lot more than at the doctor’s office.
A meta-analysis of 18 studies showed that those in the prehypertension range (now called elevated blood pressure) had 50% increased risk of coronary heart disease and 71% increased risk of stroke.1 Therefore, many health authorities have dispensed with the pre-hypertension category and follow the criteria below.
New Criteria for Blood Pressure
Blood pressure category
Less than 120
Less than 80
Less than 80
Stage 1 Hypertension
Stage 2 Hypertension
140 or higher &/or
90 or higher
(Consult doctor immediately.)
Above 180 &/or
Higher than 120
Don’t Hurry but Do DASH
The Dash Diet has been as effective in reducing elevated blood pressure as medicine in many hypertensive individuals. It also effectively improves diabetes. It is a proven, good first step for many individuals.
|Daily Nutrient Goals Used in the DASH Studies (for a 2,000-Calorie Eating Plan)2|
|Total fat||27% of calories|
|Saturated fat||6% of calories|
|Protein||18% of calories|
|Carbohydrate||55% of calories|
More Herbs and Less Salt
Excess sodium consumption promotes fluid retention and causes the arteries to become more sensitive to norepinephrine, an artery-constricting hormone. Most of our sodium intake comes from salt consumption. Thirty per cent of hypertensive individuals retain more salt than normal. Mild salt restriction generally works much better for lowering high blood pressure than severe salt restriction. One teaspoon of salt provides 2,300 mg of sodium. If you already have hypertension, or if you are middle-aged or elderly, or if you are an African American, daily recommendations are to lower your sodium intake to 1,500 mg per day. Processed foods and condiments usually have considerable sodium. Remember as we age, the kidneys decrease their ability to handle extra sodium.
Caution: Reduced-sodium products and salt substitutes often contain potassium chloride. Since this ingredient may harm people who have certain medical conditions such as diabetes and kidney disease, check with your doctor before trying reduced-sodium products and salt substitutes that contain potassium chloride.
Enjoy Fruits and Veggies
Abundant consumption of fruits and vegetables, potassium, and vitamin C is associated with a significantly lower risk of hypertension.6 Three ribs of celery a day lower blood pressure.7 Increased fruit and vegetable intake improves the ability of the blood vessels to dilate in hypertensive individuals.8 Whole fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains are rich in fiber. A high fiber intake is associated with better blood sugar control, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and better kidney function in type 2 diabetic patients.9
Fruits and vegetables are rich in potassium, a mineral that protects the arteries and kidneys and reduces the risk for stroke. Green, leafy vegetables contain magnesium which helps to prevent the blood vessels from experiencing sustained contraction, called vasospasm. A world-wide meta-analysis showed that frequent consumption of leafy greens (especially when they are steamed) is linked to a significant 15.8% reduced incidence of cardiovascular disease.10 Vegetarians have less incidence of hypertension than omnivores and a vegetarian diet can reduce elevated blood pressure.11,12
Promote Gut Health
There is one more benefit to eating a whole-food plant-based diet, that is, a healthy gut. There is emerging evidence that gut microbes may influence blood pressure. Friendly gut bacteria release valuable byproducts that protect your health and lower your risk for diabetes, atherosclerosis, and inflammatory conditions. Unfriendly gut bacteria, however, produce toxins and inflammatory agents that disrupt the gut barriers. Once inside the blood, these inflammatory compounds and toxins contribute to the development of conditions such as atherosclerosis, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and other chronic diseases.
Researchers found that individuals who had elevated blood pressure or hypertension had a reduction in the diversity of their gut microbes. Especially, species such as Prevotella and Klebsiella tended to be overgrown. Next, the scientists transplanted fecal matter from the participants into germ-free mice which are animals that lack gut bacteria. The mice that received fecal matter from people with hypertension also developed hypertension!13 Rodent studies show that transplanting fecal matter from rats with normal blood pressure into hypertensive rats cure their hypertension.14
Phytochemicals in plant foods and their byproducts stimulate the proliferation of friendly bacteria that preserve health while decreasing the population of harmful, disease-promoting bacteria in the gut. A predominately whole-food plant diet, restriction of simple sugars, regularity of schedule, and exercise improve gut health.15
Choose Beverages Wisely
A diet high in sugar and high fructose corn syrup can lower the threshold for hypertension. These products also raise uric acid, a byproduct of protein metabolism. Elevated uric acid levels are associated with new cases of recent-onset-essential-hypertension in children, and predict non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in obese children.16,17 Hypertension is not only associated with consumption of sugar-sweetened sodas, but artificially sweetened soft drinks as well, even after controlling for potentially confounding factors.18
Caffeine raises blood pressure in hypertensive-prone individuals.19 It magnifies the physiologic effects of stress inside our bodies throughout the day even when taken only in the morning. Avoid caffeine because it increases the consumption of oxygen in the brain and blood flow resistance in the cerebrum (upper 7/8 of the brain). In other words, caffeine increases the demand for oxygen in the brain while reducing the supply of blood flow within the brain.20 This scenario is not what we want in individuals who have an increased risk for stroke.
On the positive side, hibiscus tea lowers blood pressure in pre-hypertensive and mildly hypertensive adults21 and can be as effective at lowering blood pressure as the commonly used blood pressure medications. 22 No more than a cup a day, as some hibiscus has substantial amounts of manganese. One does not want to take too much of any mineral. If you are taking medicine, are pregnant, or nursing a baby, check with your pharmacist before taking any herb to avoid any possible herb-drug interactions.
Skip the Alcohol
A recent analysis included 17,059 participants from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey adjusted for age, gender, income, and cardiovascular risk factors. Researchers found that when compared with never drinkers, moderate drinkers (7 to 13 drinks/week) had increased odds of prevalent stage 1 and stage 2 systolic hypertension. Similarly, there were significantly higher odds of stage 1 and stage 2 systolic hypertension among heavy drinkers (≥14 drinks/week).23
Lose to Win
The arteries in an obese individual become more sensitive to molecules that constrict them and less sensitive to molecules that open them.24,25 Among other serious consequences, diabetes and obesity decrease the ability of the innermost lining of the blood vessels to manufacture molecules that enable the blood vessels to dilate and discourage undesirable clotting. Just a weight loss of even 10% in obese individuals is helpful in reducing high blood pressure and lowering blood lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides). Exercise and weight loss even improve the ability of the blood vessels to dilate in type 2 diabetes.26
Largely unknown at the time of his presidential campaign, Woodrow Wilson had been plagued by hypertension and mild strokes. In 1896 Wilson possibly experienced his first stroke which caused marked weakness of his right upper limb plus sensory disturbances in his fingers. His doctors at the time diagnosed him as having neuritis. In June of 1904 Wilson developed weakness in the right arm that lasted for several months.
Once president, Wilson’s problems unfortunately continued. In May of 1914 changes in the arteries of his eye were documented. Wilson then experienced severe headaches lasting for days, during the years 1915-1919. Wilson desperately wanted the First World War to be the war that ended all wars. Unfortunately while president, Wilson suffered a catastrophic stroke on October 13, 1919 and was thus prevented from accomplishing anything significant. His wife and physician actually conspired to keep the extent of his disability a secret. Indeed, Wilson’s condition was hidden from his own Cabinet, from the Vice President and, of course, from the public.27 So who was running the American government?
His experience leads us to ask the following questions: In what ways exactly does our cardiovascular health impact our community? In Wilson’s day the medical community did not know as much about how to prevent and treat hypertension. Are we taking advantage of the opportunities that we personally have to follow the lifestyle principles that modern medical authorities advocate—to lose weight if obese, watch the salt, and exercise? Will our usefulness, like President Wilson’s, be cut short by our negligent failure to do so? Will cardiovascular disease sabotage our plans to help our world or to guide a child we love? If that happens to you, who will be in your driver’s seat?
© 2018 – 2021, Wildwood Sanitarium. All rights reserved.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is educational and general in nature. Neither Wildwood Lifestyle Center, its entities, nor author intend this article as a substitute for medical diagnosis, counsel, or treatment by a qualified health professional.
- Haung. Prehypertension & the Incidence of cardiovascular disease: a meta-analysis. BMC Med. 2013; 11:177. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3750349/
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, What is the DASH eating plan? www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/dash-eating-plan
- Craig, Winston, Herbs for Your Health, Golden Harvest Book, 2011, p.62
- Larson, AJ, et al., Therapeutic potential of quercetin to decrease blood pressure: review of efficacy and mechanisms. Adv Nutr. 2012 Jan; 3(1):39-46.
- Kwon, Y, Evaluation of clonal herbs of Lamiaceae species for management of diabetes and hypertension. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2006; 15(1):107-18.
- Jenkins, DJ, et al., The Garden of Eden–plant based diets, the genetic drive to conserve cholesterol and its implications for heart disease in the 21st century. Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol, 136(1):141-51, 2003. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14527636
- Craig, Winston, Nutrition and Wellness, Taking the Pressure Off.
- Mcall, D.O., et al., Dietary intake of fruits and vegetables improves microvascular function in hypertensive subjects in a dose-dependent manner. Circulation, 119(16):2153-60, 2009.
- Fujii, H, et al., Impact of dietary fiber intake on glycemic control, cardiovascular risk factors and chronic kidney disease in Japanese patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: the Fukuoka Diabetes Registry. Nutr J. 2013 Dec 11; 12:159.
- Pollick RL. The effect of green leafy and cruciferous vegetable intake on the incidence of cardiovascular disease: A meta-analysis. JRSM Cardiovasc Dis. 2016 Jan-Dec; 5: 2048004016661435.
- Beilin, L.J. and Burke, V., Vegetarian diet components, protein and blood pressure: which nutrients are important? Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol, 22(3):195-8, 1995.
- Beilin, L.J., Vegetarian approach to hypertension, Can J Physiol Pharmacol, 64(6):852-5, 1986.
- Li J. Gut microbiota dysbiosis contributes to the development of hypertension. Microbiome. 2017 Feb 1;5(1):14. doi: 10.1186/s40168-016-0222-x.
- Toral M.Critical Role of the Interaction Gut Microbiota – Sympathetic Nervous System in the Regulation of Blood Pressure. Front. Physiol., 08 March 2019.
- Hall E. & Vale P. Twelve Ways to Improve Gut Health. July 2020. https://wildwoodhealth.com/blog/twelve-natural-ways-to-improve-gut-health-without-probiotics/
- Jones, D.P., et al., Serum uric acid and ambulatory blood pressure in children with primary hypertension. Pediatr Res, 64(5):556-61, 2008.
- Hall, E.J., Metabolic syndrome. The Journal of Health and Healing, 27(3):3-7.
- Cohen L, et al., Association of sweetened beverage intake with incident hypertension. J Gen Intern Med. 2012 Sep; 27(9):1127-34. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22539069
- Hartley, T.R., Hypertension Risk Status and Effect of Caffeine on Blood Pressure, Hypertension. 2000 Jul; 36(1):137-41.
- Gupta, B.S. and Gupta, U. (editors), Caffeine and Behavior: Current Views and Research Trends, CRC Publishers, 1999, p. 31-42.
- McKay, DL, et al., Hibiscus sabdariffa L. tea (tisane) lowers blood pressure in prehypertensive and mildly hypertensive adults. J Nutr. 2010 Feb; 140(2):298-303.
- Hopkins, AL, Hibiscus sabdariffa L. in the treatment of hypertension and hyperlipidemia: a comprehensive review of animal and human studies. Fitoterapia. 2013 Mar; 85:84-94.
- Aladin A. Alcohol Consumption and Systemic Hypertension (from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey). Am J Cardiol. 2021 Sep 18:S0002-9149(21)00818-3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34548145/
- Wu, G. and Meininger, C.J., Nitric oxide and vascular insulin resistance. Biofactors, 35(1):21-7, 2009.
- Bogaert, Y.E. and Linas, S., The role of obesity in the pathogenesis of hypertension. Nat Clin PractNephrol. 5(2):101-11, 2009.
- Wycherley, T.P., et al., Effect of caloric restriction with and without exercise training on oxidative stress and endothelial function in obese subjects with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Obes Metab, 10(11):1062-73, 2008.
- Edwin A. Weinstein’s book, Woodrow Wilson: A Medical and Psychological Biography.