Female patient blood pressure being measured

How to lower blood pressure

Tips to reduce high blood pressure

Around one in three Australian adults experience high blood pressure - and this number is on the rise both here and around the world.

With high blood pressure (hypertension) being strongly linked to heart disease, it’s important to know the changes you can make to reduce high blood pressure and keep your heart health in check.

Eat a healthy diet and lower salt intake

To reduce heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure, it’s advised to eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and wholegrains and lower in refined grains, red meats and heavily processed foods.

Salt (which is made up of 40 percent sodium) intake is of particular concern, with around 21 percent of high blood pressure burden in Australia being due to a diet high in sodium.

Australian adults are advised to consume no more than 2,000mg (approx. 1 teaspoon) of sodium a day. People with high blood pressure should discuss their sodium intake with their GP or cardiologist as they may require further restrictions.

Even without the addition of salt to your meals, many packaged foods already contain high levels of sodium. Therefore, it is advised to keep an eye on nutrition labels when shopping, eat less processed foods, and avoid adding extra salt to meals.

Potassium-enriched salt may also be an easy swap for those looking to reduce their sodium intake. Look out for this in larger supermarkets – it tastes like regular salt and is often sold as ‘Heart Salt’ or similar names.

Exercise regularly

Exercise offers many long-term heart health benefits, including helping to lower blood pressure.

Research has shown an association between a variety of exercises, including cardio exercises and resistance training, and a reduction in blood pressure. This can range from a 2.8 mmHg reduction for walking, to an over 6 mmHg reduction for running and cycling.

Ultimately the best exercise for you is the one you are likely to stick with in the long term, so choose an activity you enjoy and start incorporating it into your routine. Aim for 30 minutes (which can be broken up into shorter sessions) of moderate activity on most, if not all days. Learn more about exercise and how much you need to do on our Exercise and Heart Health page.

Limit alcohol intake

Research has shown that alcohol consumption, in any amount, is associated with an increase in blood pressure.

Even those who drink one alcoholic beverage per day were found to be more likely to have higher blood pressure compared to non-drinkers.

For those who regularly consume alcohol, reducing your intake, even by one drink a day, may help to reduce blood pressure.

People with any concerns in relation to high blood pressure and alcohol consumption - particularly those with existing heart conditions, or other existing health conditions - should talk to their GP or cardiologist.

Lose weight if needed

Even small amounts of weight loss can help to reduce blood pressure.

Research has shown that a reduction of just 5.1 kgs was associated with a 4.4 mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure and a 3.6 mmHg reduction in diastolic blood pressure.

Weight loss may be achieved through eating a healthy diet, managing portions, engaging in regular moderate intensity physical activity, and reducing alcohol intake.

Quit smoking and/or vaping

Nicotine in traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes can cause a temporary increase in blood pressure. Smoking also increases the risk of atherosclerosis – which is a buildup of plaque that leads to hardening and narrowing of the arteries in the heart and can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Quitting smoking and/or vaping can help to reduce these risk factors and improve overall heart health.

Get a good night’s sleep

Research has shown that poor sleep - including a lack of sleep and/or difficulty falling or staying asleep – is associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure.

Aim for between seven to nine hours of sleep per night and consider your sleep habits, also known as sleep hygiene. This includes creating a calming environment; avoiding caffeine, nicotine and alcohol in the hours before bedtime; aiming for regular sleep hours; and getting up and doing something relaxing if you’re having trouble falling asleep.

Discuss medication with your doctor

For some people, the lifestyle changes mentioned above may not be enough to keep blood pressure in check. In these instances, medication (such as diuretics, beta blockers, ACE inhibitors and calcium channel blockers) may be required. Most of these types of medications have been used for several decades and have well-proven safety records.

To ensure proper management of high blood pressure, people should discuss treatment strategies, including lifestyle changes, with their GP or cardiologist.

Acknowledgement of Country

The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present.

Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute - The Home of Heart Research for 30 Years