Each and every one of us is different. So, how long it takes to lower your blood pressure will depend on how high your levels are, the medication you’re taking to lower it, and how carefully you’re following the treatment plan prescribed for you by your doctor. Read more about how to safely lower your blood pressure in this overview.
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You might need to start with medication to lower your blood pressure, but lifestyle changes can be a better long-term strategy.
What Is High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure (hypertension) develops when your heart has to pump blood through narrowed or blocked arteries with more force. As blood is pumped with more force, the pressure on the walls of your arteries increases, which can lead to serious damage throughout your body.
Systolic blood pressure — the top number in a blood pressure measurement — is the amount of pressure blood exerts on your artery walls with each heartbeat. Diastolic blood pressure — the bottom number — is the amount of pressure blood puts on your arteries between beats when the heart is at rest.
Why Systolic and Diastolic Blood Pressure Are Both Important
While many muscles work better when they have been working harder, the heart isn’t really one of those. Overworking your heart can result in hypertrophy, an overgrowth of muscle, and can lead to heart failure.
Ideal blood pressure measurements can differ somewhat from person to person. Your healthcare provider will check your blood pressure and see if you fall within the normal range, or if your blood pressure is elevated. Measurements include:
- Normal blood pressure: 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) or less
- At-risk/Prehypertension: 120–139/80–89 mmHg
- High blood pressure/hypertension: 140/90 mmHg and above
Average Blood Pressure by Age: What You Need to Know
Blood pressure is a measurement of how much force blood puts on the walls of your arteries. Too much force increases your blood pressure, causing hypertension. This can make your heart work harder, weakening it over time.
How Long Does It Take to Lower Blood Pressure?
If you have severe symptoms from high blood pressure, your doctor will probably have you admitted to the hospital, where you can receive medications that can lower your blood pressure almost immediately, but this isn’t really a good long-term strategy.
Most medications you will be given to address blood pressure will work gradually over time. Some change the levels of different essential minerals, or electrolytes — like sodium or potassium — in your body. Others, like beta-blockers, can lower your heart rate and reduce the workload placed on your heart. In time, this can also lead to a reduction in your blood pressure. Ace inhibitors are another class of blood pressure medications, and these work by relaxing narrowed arteries so it’s easier for blood to flow through them.
There are lifestyle factors that can increase your blood pressure — including obesity, a high-salt diet, and smoking. Modifying the risk factors that contribute to high blood pressure is another strategy that is usually used alongside medications to lower your blood pressure and prevent further cardiovascular disease.
Medications can lower your blood pressure quickly, but it takes time — weeks or even months — to reduce blood pressure with lifestyle changes.
Lower Your Levels Without Medication
While many people use medications to lower their blood pressure, lifestyle changes are usually recommended, too. Eating a healthy diet, maintaining your weight, and getting regular exercise are good ways to prevent high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, but they can help treat these problems, too. While lifestyle changes alone can’t cure high blood pressure, they can improve how well your medications work and help you avoid additional complications.
Lifestyle changes can help prevent high blood pressure from developing, but once you are diagnosed with hypertension your treatment is likely to involve a combination of both lifestyle changes and medications.
Dietary changes can have a big impact on your blood pressure. There are several types of diets that can help lower your blood pressure, including low-carbohydrate or Mediterranean diets. One of the most effective steps you can take to lower your blood pressure with diet is to start a low-sodium, heart-healthy diet.
Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, also known as the DASH diet, is recommended by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. This diet is flexible to allow for freedom in food choices as long as you stick to certain principles, which are:
- Eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
- Include fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils in your diet.
- Limit foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, and tropical oils such as coconut and palm oils.
- Avoid or limit sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets.
The DASH diet, paired with reduced sodium intake, can reduce systolic blood pressure readings by as much as 10 mmHg in as little as a month, according to one study.
8 Foods To Help Support Healthy Blood Pressure
You don’t have to be super fit to lower your blood pressure with exercise. In fact, even just increasing your heart rate with moderate exercise a few times a week can help.
One study found that older adults who were previously sedentary reduced their blood pressure by almost 5% with aerobic exercise. How fast you get these results will depend a lot on what kind of exercise you do and how often you do it. Just 150 minutes per week — or about 20 minutes each day — of aerobic activity can lower your blood pressure by 5–8 mmHg.
Alcohol is known to cause blood pressure to increase, and you might be surprised at what a recommended limit is for daily alcohol intake. Recommendations are based generally on body size, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends no more than two drinks daily for men and one drink per day for women.
Time frames for improvement will vary based on your blood pressure range and how much you drink daily. People who already have high blood pressure and drink more than what is recommended daily can lower your blood pressure by several points just by cutting back to recommended levels.
How Alcohol Affects Blood Pressure
Smoking cigarettes is associated with many negative health effects, and the formation of atherosclerosis — a narrowing of the arteries — is a big one.
Atherosclerosis is a major contributor to high blood pressure, and quitting smoking is just one of the ways that you can help prevent this condition and lower your blood pressure.
Sodium increases blood pressure by prompting your body to make more fluid in order to reduce salt levels. Reducing sodium intake by just 25% has been linked to a 2- to 3-point reduction in blood pressure measurements. Cutting your sodium can even help reduce your blood pressure in as little as one week. Experts say people with hypertension who keep their sodium under 1,500 milligrams per day can reduce their blood pressure by 5–6 mmHg.
Taking potassium supplements or increasing the amount of potassium you include in your diet is one way to tackle high blood pressure.
Potassium supplements could be considered a medication, but you can also take in more potassium from foods like bananas, spinach, and broccoli. The DASH diet is known for increasing your overall potassium intake.
Experts recommend aiming for 3,000–3,500 milligrams of potassium each day, but be careful about taking this in with supplements. Other conditions, like kidney disease, may not respond well to too much potassium. Talk to your doctor about taking supplements or increasing your potassium intake. If you have high blood pressure already, increasing your potassium could drop you blood pressure by 4–5 mmHg over several weeks.
How Does Potassium Affect High Blood Pressure?
Getting enough sleep and managing your stress can also have a positive impact on your blood pressure. Experts are just beginning to understand how important sleep and reducing stress are when it comes to preventing hypertension and heading off heart disease.
Sleep deprivation caused a significant increase in systolic blood pressure in participants in one study, leading researchers to highlight the importance of a focus on sleep and stress management when creating treatment plans for patients with hypertension.
Being overweight is a risk factor for essentially every cardiovascular problem, including high blood pressure. Losing weight is often one of the first things your doctor will recommend when it comes to reducing blood pressure because it works. Experts suggest that you can lower your blood pressure by 1 mmHg for each 2.2 pounds of weight loss.
Weight loss efforts in people with hypertension should focus on reducing the number of calories you consume while also increasing exercise. These changes take time, but weight loss has a dose-response relationship with blood pressure. This means that pounds lost have an almost direct and immediate effect on your blood pressure measurements.
Discover Why Being Overweight Doubles Your Chances of Having a Stroke
Lifestyle changes like diet and exercise can take longer to work than medications when it comes to lowering your blood pressure.
When to Seek Professional Treatment
You should see your doctor regularly for health screenings as part of a good preventive care program. If you are doing this, your healthcare provider can see trends developing with your blood pressure and other health factors and give you advice on how to head off serious problems.
If you don’t regularly see a doctor and have a onetime high blood pressure reading, you should schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider for follow-up — especially if you are experiencing symptoms like chest pain or dizziness.
Creating a plan with your doctor is the best way to prevent and treat high blood pressure.
Ways to Manage Your Blood Pressure
If your blood pressure is rising gradually but not classified as hypertension yet, making lifestyle changes can help prevent this condition and protect your heart health.
If you already have high blood pressure, you should see a healthcare provider. Your doctor will likely prescribe you medication to lower your blood pressure immediately, then create a plan to help you achieve more long-term improvements. Treatment plans for high blood pressure usually focus on improving your overall health. These plans should include efforts like:
- Weight loss
- Diet changes
- Stress reduction
- Quitting smoking
- Reducing alcohol
These changes won’t lower your blood pressure immediately the way medications will, but over time, your doctor may be able to reduce or even stop medications if you can successfully lower your blood pressure with lifestyle changes.
Blood Pressure Drugs Work Best When Taken at the Right Time of Day
There are natural solutions for weight loss, but you may need to start by managing your condition with medication.
Both prescription medications and lifestyle changes can help lower your blood pressure, but both can take weeks or months to fully take effect. There is no quick fix for high blood pressure, especially if you have other cardiovascular problems. Talk to your doctor early about your risks and make sure to get regular health screenings.
Living Well With Hypertension
A Word From Verywell
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is a saying that rings especially true when it comes to your blood pressure. Maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet, and exercising can all help prevent you from developing high blood pressure. These strategies also serve as treatment for this condition.
If you’ve already developed hypertension, there is no quick fix. It will take a combination of medications, lifestyle changes, and patience to see changes. In most cases, you will need a multipronged approach to manage your blood pressure. Talk to your doctor about the best treatment strategy for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Can potassium help lower blood pressure?
- Yes, increasing how much potassium you consume in your diet can help reduce your blood pressure. Talk to your doctor before taking potassium supplements.
- Learn More:How Does Potassium Affect High Blood Pressure?
- How long will it take to lower blood pressure with lifestyle changes?
- Some changes can happen within days, while others — like weight loss — may take weeks or months.
- Learn More:How Hypertension is Treated
- How long will it take for blood pressure medication to affect your blood pressure levels?
- Many medications have an almost immediate effect on your blood pressure. These will usually be prescribed for you as you begin making lifestyle changes that can have a better long-term impact on your blood pressure and overall health.
- Learn More:Medications Used to Treat High Blood Pressure