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Proven Ways to Lower Your Blood Pressure Now, Say Doctors

A few simple tweaks could save your life, especially during the pandemic.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab

Among all the shocking statistics of 2020, one stands out, quietly but persistently: deaths attributed to high blood pressure this year are 11% above normal, up more than pneumonia and flu, more than coronary heart disease, more than a stroke, according to a New York Times analysis of estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Many of them are most likely indirectly related to the virus and caused by disruptions from the pandemic, including strains on health care systems, inadequate access to supplies like ventilators or people avoiding hospitals for fear of exposure to the coronavirus," reports the paper. Since having high blood pressure makes you more vulnerable to COVID-19, read on for simple ways to lower it—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Signs Your Illness is Actually Coronavirus in Disguise.

1

Get a Good Night's Sleep

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"One of the most important things people can do to lower their blood pressure during the day is to sleep well at night," says Sheldon Zablow, MD. "Many studies have shown that there is a correlation between poor sleep and hypertension. An extreme example most people are aware of is that people with sleep apnea almost always have high blood pressure."

The Rx: "Improve sleep hygiene and lower blood pressure by reducing exposure to late evening bright light, significantly reduce bedroom temperature and set a standard seven-day-a-week bedtime," says Dr. Zablow. 

2

Don't Forget to Take a Break

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"Certainly 'tea time' has great benefits by offering a break during the day," says Robert Greenfield, MD, Medical Director of Non-Invasive Cardiology & Cardiac Rehabilitation at MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center. "This stress reducer alone may help with BP control." 

RELATED: The Easiest Way to Avoid a Heart Attack, Say Doctors

3

Lower Your Sodium Intake

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"Sodium restriction to no more than 2.3 grams daily is recommended," says Dr. Greenfield. "When the average American consumes somewhere near 8-10 grams daily, their BP is not going to be well controlled no matter how much chocolate they eat or tea they drink."

4

Be Mindful About Any Medication You May Take

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"If you take an over-the-counter pain medication, please be mindful of how it might interact with your prescription medication," says Dr. Jen Caudle. "Tylenol won't increase your blood pressure and does not interfere with certain high blood pressure medications, the way other over-the-counter medications sometimes can."

5

Get Physically Active Again

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"Since the start of the pandemic, many of my patients have clearly become more sedentary," says Lisa Ravindra, MD, FACP. "Without their commutes to work and walking around the office, people can easily spend 12 hours per day sitting in front of their computers."

The Rx: "Dynamic aerobic exercise, like brisk walking, swimming, and bicycling has been studied the most extensively and has been shown to reduce systolic blood pressure by as much as 7 mmHg," says Dr. Ravindra. "The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity."

6

Limit Your Alcohol Consumption

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"Alcohol consumption has increased since the start of the pandemic," says Dr. Ravindra. "Multiple studies have shown excessive alcohol consumption is associated with developing chronic high blood pressure."

The Rx: "Guidelines recommend no more than 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men," says Dr. Ravindra. "This is not equivalent to a man drinking 7 drinks nightly for 2 nights."

7

Cut Down on Caffeine

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"Cutting down on caffeine is one way to lower your blood pressure," says Dr. Sean Paul, MD. "Caffeine, found in coffee, tea, and other drinks like sodas, can cause increased blood pressure and heart rate."

8

Quit Smoking

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"Quit smoking, that includes both vaping and cigarette smoking," says Dr. Jessica Lubahn, MD Urologist and founder at ONDRwear. "Nicotine increases your blood pressure and heart rate for several minutes after you inhale." 

9

Don't Forget About Your Supplements 

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"Increase Omega 3 essential fatty acids through diet or supplementation as they are highly anti-inflammatory to the body and blood vessels and breakdown plaques," says Shae Leonard, PA. "CoQ10 works on the mitochondria or energy power houses of the cells to produce energy vital for muscle cells in the heart." 

10

Be Mindful About Your Weight

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"Research consistently shows how lowering your weight (target BMI 19 – 24.9) and waistline (Men less than 40 inches and women less than 35 inches) can significantly impact your blood pressure," says Dr. Sheneen Lalani, a Board Certified Internal Medicine doctor.

11

What Else to Keep in Mind

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"Hypertension is nothing to ignore. Uncontrolled, it can lead to heart attacks, heart failure, strokes and death," says Dr. Greenfield. "People should follow established guidelines and consult with their physicians and concentrate on how they are living their lives." So do so, and follow the public health fundamentals, no matter where you live—wear a face mask, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene and to protect your life and the lives of others, and don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Emilia Paluszek
Emilia specializes in human biology and psychology at the University at Albany. Read more