How to Lower Blood Pressure Quickly and Safely

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on March 07, 2024
12 min read

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, happens when it takes too much force to push your blood through your arteries, making your heart work too hard. More than 1.2 billion adults worldwide have high blood pressure and almost half don't know they have the condition. 

High blood pressure raises your chances of having heart attacks and strokes. It’s important to know your numbers, because if you have high blood pressure, you’ll want to bring those numbers down. You can take your blood pressure at home with a blood pressure cuff, or get it taken at your doctor's office. Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). The American Heart Association ranks high blood pressure in four categories:

Normal: Lower than 120/80 mm Hg

Elevated: The top number (systolic – how much force is put on your blood vessels when your heart beats) is 120-129 mm Hg and the bottom number (diastolic – the force on blood vessels between beats) is less than 80 mm Hg

Stage 1 hypertension: The top number is 130-139 mm Hg and the bottom number is 80-89 mm Hg. 

Stage 2 hypertension: The top number is 140-179 mm Hg and the bottom number is 90-119 mm Hg.

If you blood pressure is ever greater than 180/120 mm Hg, it is considered a medical emergency, and you should get care right away.

How long does it take to lower blood pressure?

It can take 1-3 months of regular exercise to see your blood pressure start to go down. If you change your diet (for instance, eat less sodium and try the DASH diet), you might see your numbers drop in a couple of weeks. Taking medication will help you lower your blood pressure in about 4-6 weeks.

How to lower blood pressure with medication

Lifestyle changes may be enough to get and keep your blood pressure under control. If it's not, you might need medication, too. It’s important to take it exactly as your doctor prescribes, so don't cut doses or skip days. If you have trouble remembering, get help with electronic reminders or daily pillboxes. Medications used to treat blood pressure include: 

Diuretics,like chlorthalidone (Hygroton), help your body get rid of salt (sodium) and water.

Beta-blockers, includingmetoprolol tartrate (Lopressor), lower your heart rate and the amount of blood the heart pumps.

Alpha-blockers, likedoxazosin (Cardura), relax the walls of small veins and arteries.

Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors,includingbenazepril (Lotensin), help the body make less angiotensin (a chemical that narrows blood vessels).

Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs),like irbesartan (Avapro), reduce the effects of angiotensin.

Vasodilators,includingminoxidil (Loniten), relax the blood vessel walls, letting them open more easily.

Calcium channel-blockers,likeamlodipine (Lotrel), keep calcium from getting into the heart and artery muscle cells. 

Alpha-2 receptor agonists,includingclonidine (Catapres), reduce the activity of the part of the nervous system that produces adrenaline.

Combined alpha- and beta-blockers are typically only used if you are in a hypertensive emergency (given as an IV) or are at high risk of a heart attack.

If you don't want to take medication, or your blood pressure is just slightly high and you'd like to bring it down, there are a number of things you can eat, and drink, to lower it naturally.

Foods to reduce blood pressure

Your doctor may suggest you try a program called DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). It is a well-known, flexible eating plan meant to help you manage and lower blood pressure. Following DASH may help you lower your blood pressure by 8-14 points.

Instead of prescribing exactly what to eat, the plan recommends eating plenty of foods packed with vitamins like potassium and magnesium, like leafy greens or beans. It also suggests having:

  • Fruits and vegetables – 4-5 servings of each per day, especially berries, which are high in antioxidants 
  • Whole grains – 6-8 servings each day
  • Proteins – Up to 6 servings a day of low-fat options like fish and poultry
  • Dairy products – 2-3 servings a day of low-fat, low-sugar products like fat-free yogurt
  • Nuts, seeds, and beans – 4-5 servings are recommended per day (just make sure nuts are unsalted)

You should have no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day on DASH, but you may see better results if you have no more than 1,500 milligrams daily.

The DASH diet suggests staying away from or cutting back on:

  • Foods high in trans fat and saturated fat (including full-fat dairy)
  • Processed foods
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Carbohydrates
  • Caffeine

The DASH diet is a healthy option for most people wanting to lower blood pressure, but talk to your doctor before starting it if you have chronic kidney disease, chronic liver disease, or are taking hypertension medications including ACE inhibitors, ARBs, and beta-blockers. You may also need to modify the diet plan if you have heart failure, diabetes that isn't well-controlled, celiac disease, or are lactose intolerant.

Reduce your sodium intake

It’s a prime offender in raising blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends that people with hypertension keep it under 1,500 milligrams a day. Check your food labels to see how much you’re getting. If you cut back gradually, you’re less likely to notice the difference. Limiting sodium to just 2,400 milligrams daily can lower your number 2-8 points.

One way to cut back is to prepare your food at home. Seventy-five percent of your sodium intake comes from eating out and packaged foods. Use more spices for flavor instead of salt. Eating more potassium (found in foods like bananas, raisins, tuna, and milk) helps move sodium out of your body.

Here are ways to cut down on salt and add healthy flavor:

  • Check labels for "salt," "sodium," "sea salt," and "kosher salt."
  • Rinse salty canned food such as beans or tuna before eating.
  • Substitute herbs and spices for salt when cooking.
  • Avoid prepared and boxed side dishes, which usually have a lot of added sodium. Instead, try cooking plain rice, pasta, or grains without adding salt. You can add other flavorings or a bit of salt when you serve them.
  • Look for "low sodium" on food labels.

Drinks that lower blood pressure

Some juices – like beet juice (which has nitrates that relax blood vessels) and ones that are high in potassium (which help you get rid of sodium) like prune, carrot, and pomegranate – can help lower blood pressure. Just be sure to limit how much you drink because most juice (even 100% juice) is high in calories.

Skim milk has a lot of nutrients, including potassium, which helps you get rid of sodium.

Tea has healthy compounds that are thought to reduce inflammation, relax and reduce oxidative stress in the blood vessels, and help your body use nitric oxide.

You can bring down your systolic blood pressure 2-4 points when you limit yourself to one alcoholic drink a day – for women or people assigned female at birth (AFAB) – or two drinks daily – for men or people assigned male at birth (AMAB). One drink is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.

It's also a good idea to limit caffeine intake (no more than one cup of coffee or soda a day if you have high blood pressure), sugar-filled drinks, and energy drinks (which are often high in both sugar and caffeine).

Supplements to lower blood pressure

Research shows that some vitamins and minerals may help lower blood pressure. Before taking anything, talk to your doctor and be sure they know about all of the medications and supplements you take to avoid any interactions. 


  • Coenzyme Q10 (coQ10) is an antioxidant that may reduce oxidative stress (when too many unstable molecules – known as free radicals – are in the body, causing cell damage). 
  • Beet root juice helps increase nitrogen oxides in the blood, which are thought to dilate (open) arteries and reduce arterial stiffness. 
  • L‐arginine is an amino acid that produces nitric oxide. 
  • Cocoa flavonoids are antioxidants and anti-inflammatories and help the body process nitric oxide. 
  • Melatonin (controlled release) isa hormone that protects blood vessels and improves the body's use of nitric oxide. 
  • Aged garlic extract is thought to help relax blood vessels and reduce their stiffness. 


  • Vitamin C: This has antioxidants that protect the linings of your blood vessels. Orange juice is a good source, as are fruits like kiwi and strawberries, and vegetables like broccoli, kale, tomatoes, and sweet red peppers. Adults should get 400 milligrams per day.
  • Potassium: This helps your body get rid of sodium through your pee. Men and people AMAB should aim for 3,400 milligrams a day, and women and people AFAB around 2,600 milligrams. Potassium is found in fruits like bananas and prunes and vegetables like potatoes, tomatoes, and artichokes.
  • Vitamin D: This helps make the enzyme renin, which is linked to blood pressure health. You can get vitamin D from fatty fish, like salmon or mackerel, or milk. You also can take it in a supplement or absorb vitamin D from sunlight (and just 5-30 minutes of sunlight a day, without sunscreen, should be enough for most adults).

Lower blood pressure with exercise

When you exercise, you strengthen your heart. The stronger your heart is, the less force it requires to pump blood, reducing the pressure on your arteries.

Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week, or 150 total hours of moderate physical activity weekly. And you don't have to hit the gym to see benefits. Your activities can include gardening, washing your car, or housework. Aerobic activities like walking, dancing, jogging, riding your bike, and swimming are particularly good for your heart. Regular physical activity may lower your blood pressure 6-12 systolic points and 3-7 diastolic points. 

Exercise can also help you lose weight, which can benefit your blood pressure. Research shows you may be able to lower your systolic blood pressure by 5 to 20 points for every 20 pounds you lose. If you're overweight, losing as little as 10 pounds can help lower blood pressure. One goal may be to get your body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9.

Weight loss can also help with sleep apnea – when your breathing briefly stops multiple times while you sleep. Sleep apnea may raise your blood pressure and make your heartbeat irregular. 

Plan to shed pounds slowly with a steady mix of healthy eating and exercise. If you aim to lose 1-2 pounds a week, you are more likely to have long-term success keeping weight off than if you lose weight too quickly.

Ease stress

Lowering your stress helps keep your blood pressure normal. Try mind-body exercises like yoga and tai chi. Meditation can also help with stress, as can listening to calming music, or making music. Sitting in the sun can boost feel-good chemicals called endorphins and lower your blood pressure. And don’t forget about your support network. Visiting with friends and family may help lighten your mood.

Other things you might try to get a handle on stress include:

Setting realistic daily goals: Determine your priorities and don’t put pressure on yourself to try to do too much.

Controlling what you can: See if you can do something about the things that cause you the most stress. It can sometimes help to bounce ideas off a co-worker or a family member to find a solution. Also, be aware when things are not in your control and try not to worry about them, if possible. 

Staying clear of stressors: If you know that something or someone causes you stress, do your best to avoid them.

Finding some “me” time: Take a break during the day to do something you like. Take a walk or find a quiet place to meditate or do some deep breathing.

Seeking therapy: A therapist or counselor may help you come up with tips to reduce your stress levels. Sometimes, just talking about things can be good for mental health. 

Stop smoking

Swearing off cigarettes is probably the single best thing you can do for your heart. It’s good for your health in general, too. Not only does smoking hurt you over the long term, but your blood pressure goes up every time you have a cigarette. Lower your blood pressure and prolong your life by quitting. If you need help getting started, talk to your doctor.

Get quality sleep

When you are sleeping, your heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure usually go down. If you don’t get enough sleep, that means your blood pressure stays higher, longer, and doesn't give your body that break. Lack of sleep may also affect your body’s ability to control stress hormones, which can raise your blood pressure.

To get a good night’s sleep, it’s best to stick to a regular schedule, exercise early in the day, don’t eat or drink too close to bedtime, and avoid caffeine late in the day. 

As many as 16% of pregnant women or people AFAB have hypertension during pregnancy. You are considered to have high blood pressure if you're pregnant and have two blood pressure readings that are 140/90 mm Hg or higher. High blood pressure during pregnancy can cause complications including:

  • A stroke
  • Diabetes, heart disease, or high cholesterol
  • A low-birthweight baby because blood flow to the fetus is reduced, not allowing it to receive enough nutrients
  • A baby that is stillborn or dies shortly after birth
  • A premature delivery to avoid complications that might happen if you wait until full term
  • A cesarean section (C-section) 
  • Your placenta separates from the wall of the uterus before you give birth

Types of pregnancy high blood pressure

You can have different types of high blood pressure during pregnancy. Some come with a higher risk of complications than others. They include: 

Chronic hypertension is when you have high blood pressure before pregnancy or it comes on during the first 5 months of pregnancy.

Gestational hypertension is when you have it after the first 5 months of pregnancy.

Preeclampsia also happens after the first 5 months of pregnancy. Many times, tests will show that you have protein in your urine, which means that your kidneys aren't working the way they should. Preeclampsia can be serious and often requires you to deliver your baby early. 

HELLP syndrome is a very rare type of preeclampsia where you also have hemolysis (where red blood cells are destroyed), elevated enzyme levels of the liver, and your platelets (blood cells that help blood clot) are low. If you have this, you will probably need an early delivery.

Eclampsia requires medical help right away and happens when preeclampsia is untreated or not treated well. This is rare and causes seizures that can be life-threatening. 

How to reduce hypertension during pregnancy

If your doctor thinks you might have high blood pressure during pregnancy, they will usually take a urine sample and may order blood tests. If you have slightly high blood pressure, or you have chronic hypertension, your doctor may just monitor you to make sure it doesn't get worse. There are a number of safe ways to lower your blood pressure during pregnancy. 

Don't skip prenatal visits. Make sure to see your doctor regularly while you are pregnant.

Stay physically active. Most people can remain physically active during pregnancy. Make sure to talk to your doctor – especially if you weren't exercising regularly before your pregnancy – to find out what is safe for you.

Eat a heart-healthy diet. Talk to your doctor to see if the DASH diet is right for you. There is some evidence showing it may reduce blood pressure (but not necessarily hypertension disorders) in pregnant women. If DASH isn't for you, try to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein each day. Also, cut back on sodium and processed foods. 

Take aspirin. Your doctor may recommend taking low-dose aspirin (81 milligrams) starting in your second trimester. This could help prevent preeclampsia later in your pregnancy.

Take blood pressure medications. Your doctor may prescribe medications that lower blood pressure. Not all hypertension medications are safe to take during pregnancy. If you were taking them before you got pregnant, let your doctor know and they will move you to a different one, like labetalol or thiazide diuretics.

Having high blood pressure, or hypertension, increases your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. But you can reduce your blood pressure by getting regular exercise and eating a diet full of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. If your blood pressure is consistently high, talk to your doctor. They may recommend medications to keep it in check.

  • How can I lower my blood pressure quickly? Lifestyle changes and medications can lower blood pressure, but it may take a month or so before you see major changes.
  • Can I reduce blood pressure from 140 mm Hg to 120 mm Hg? Yes. You can drop your blood pressure by as much as 20 points by losing 20 pounds. Lowering your sodium to 1,500 milligrams daily and following the DASH diet (ask your doctor if it is right for you) may also lower your numbers by 20 points.