6 Ways To Lower Blood Pressure By Changing Your Diet

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This is a guest post by Laura Schoenfeld, a Registered Dietitian with a Master’s degree in Public Health, and staff nutritionist and content manager for ChrisKresser.com. You can learn more about Laura by checking out her blog or visiting her on Facebook.

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a serious and common condition that can lead to life-threatening diseases such as heart attack, stroke, heart or kidney failure, and more. While 1 in 3 American adults have high blood pressure, this condition only affects 3% or less of hunter-gatherer populations that are following a traditional diet and lifestyle. (1, 2) This would suggest that hypertension is a disease of poor lifestyle choices, and one that can be effectively treated using simple diet and behavior changes, as well as strategic use of herbal remedies.

Blood pressure is measured by two numbers: the top number is the systolic pressure (when the heart is pumping blood) and the bottom number is the diastolic pressure (when the heart is at rest).  A normal blood pressure number is below 120/80, prehypertension is diagnosed between 120/80 – 139/89, Stage 1 hypertension is between 140/90 – 159/99, and Stage 2 hypertension is blood pressure above 160/100.

While most doctors prescribe drug treatment when a patient has reached the prehypertension stage, there is no evidence to support pharmaceutical treatment in these patients. (3) But this doesn’t mean hypertension shouldn’t be addressed. Much like high cholesterol, elevated blood pressure (even in the prehypertension stage) is a sure sign of other problems going on in the body.

By addressing underlying issues with diet and lifestyle changes, you may be able to reduce your blood pressure without resorting to drug treatment. This article will address six dietary changes you can make to help lower your blood pressure naturally. (That said, medication should always be considered if these changes are unable to lower your blood pressure adequately. Please defer to your doctor’s advice here!)

These 6 simple diet changes can help lower your blood pressure without using drugs. Tweet This

1. Reduce excessive carbohydrate intake, especially refined carbs and sugars.

One of the most significant contributors to high blood pressure is high blood sugar and insulin resistance. (PDF) Some evidence suggests that pathological changes in glucose and insulin metabolism significantly affect the development and clinical course of hypertension, and thus should be primary targets for dietary intervention. Chronically high blood sugar, hyperinsulinemia, and high triglycerides are far more common in individuals with hypertension than those with normal blood pressure, and one of the major contributors to all three of these conditions is an excess intake of carbohydrate, particularly refined grains and sugars. (4, 5, 6)

Additionally, excess intake of sugar-sweetened beverages like soda, sweet tea, and other sugary drinks has been shown to directly influence blood pressure. (7, 8) Cutting out these beverages should be the first step in any hypertension treatment, and can also help with shedding excess weight and reducing high blood sugar – both issues that further contribute to hypertension. And don’t think switching to Diet will help either, since artificially-sweetened beverages also contribute to hypertension. (9)

While some research has suggested that high fructose intake may increase blood pressure, other research shows that fructose itself is not the problem; rather, it is the consumption of excess total carbohydrate that is the major issue. (10, 11, 12, 13) This means you shouldn’t be concerned with eating modest levels of naturally-occurring fructose, like that from fruit and honey, as these foods are healthy in the context of a moderate carbohydrate diet. Be sure to adjust your carbohydrate intake to your needs and health goals, and get your carbohydrates from nutrient-dense whole foods like fruits and starchy vegetables.

2. Increase intake of beneficial minerals like potassium, magnesium, and calcium.

While most conventional medical professionals will recommend sodium restriction as the primary method for blood pressure reduction, it appears that focusing on eating foods rich in other macrominerals is more beneficial than strictly focusing on avoiding sodium. (14, 15, 16, 17) More important than overall sodium intake is the sodium-to-potassium ratio; thus, eating a high-potassium diet is a better strategy than eating a low-sodium diet. Further, as Chris has shown in his series on the salt myth, restricting sodium to the levels recommended by the American Heart Association may actually be causing more harm than good.

potassium in food

Click to expand table

I’ve included a chart of the Paleo foods richest in potassium to help guide you in increasing potassium intake (this chart is from the bonus chapter on hypertension from Chris’s new book, Your Personal Paleo Code). Those with hypertension should aim to get at least 4,700 milligrams of potassium per day. If you have hypertension and are unsure about the adequacy of your potassium intake, I recommend using a food diary for 3 days and analyzing your average potassium intake.

Also, don’t go too low carb when reducing your carbohydrate intake – many of the best sources of potassium and magnesium are starchy vegetables like white and sweet potatoes, or fruits like plantains and bananas. White potatoes are especially good sources of blood pressure-lowering minerals like potassium and magnesium; hypothetically you could eat three large baked potatoes per day to easily meet your potassium needs while only consuming around 180 grams of carbohydrate. While eating a potato at each meal isn’t necessary to get adequate potassium, I do think those who eat “strict” Paleo should consider reintroducing white potatoes if tolerated.

Also, those eating “strict” Paleo may be missing out on significant sources of calcium from dairy products, and calcium intake is another important predictor of high blood pressure and cardiovascular events. (18, 19) If you’re not eating dairy products, be sure to eat plenty of bone-in fish, leafy greens, bone broth, and nuts to make sure you’re getting adequate calcium. Keep a 3-day food diary to check on your intake; if you’re falling short of the minimum 600 milligrams per day, you can try adding bone meal to soups or stews to boost your calcium intake.

3. Eat grass-fed dairy products like ghee, butter, and cheese.

Beyond being a good source of calcium, full-fat grass-fed dairy has another contribution to the treatment of hypertension: vitamin K2. While this nutrient is hardly discussed by conventional medical professionals, preliminary data suggests K2 may be one of the most important nutrients to include in a disease-preventing diet. (20, 21, 22) Vitamin K2 may be protective against osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and more, so it’s definitely a nutrient you should be looking to get enough of no matter what your health situation.

Vitamin K2 may also be protective against hypertension. While there haven’t yet been any studies directly measuring K2’s effects on blood pressure, logic would suggest that this nutrient could help prevent high blood pressure by reducing vascular stiffness and arterial calcification. (23, 24, 25, 26, 27) High serum calcium levels are related to hypertension, and vitamin K2 (along with adequate vitamin D) is crucial to ensure that calcium is deposited in the bone where it belongs, and not in the arteries where it can cause vascular stiffness and calcification, leading to hypertension and heart disease. (28, 29, 30)

One of the most well-tolerated foods high in vitamin K2 is grass-fed ghee. Pure Indian Foods is my favorite brand of ghee, but you can also eat butter, cheese, and full-fat yogurt or kefir from grass-fed cows to get adequate K2. (Fermented dairy may actually have independent effects on hypertension as well. All the more reason to drink full-fat kefir!)

If you’re completely dairy intolerant or allergic, you can supplement with vitamin K2. My favorite supplement is one that contains the three fat soluble nutrients, A, D, and K2, in balanced form, which is the way these vitamins must be taken to support optimal health. If isolated nutrients aren’t your style, you can also take the fermented cod liver oil and butter oil blend by Green Pasture, which provides these three nutrients in a food-based form (though this is not appropriate for those who are allergic to dairy).

4. Eat at least one pound of fatty fish per week.

Fatty fish is high in essential omega-3 fats, and these fats have been shown to reduce the risk of hypertension and cardiovascular events in multiple studies. (31, 32, 33, 34) A meta-analysis demonstrated that fish oil supplementation may significantly reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. (35)  However, taking fish oil supplements to get your omega-3 fats is not an ideal strategy, since some studies suggest that high doses of fish oil may increase cardiovascular and total mortality, especially when used for more than four years. (36, 37)

The many benefits of fatty fish for promoting overall health are hard to argue against, and those with high blood pressure may especially benefit from including more fish in their diet. Also, certain fatty fish like halibut and wild salmon are high in potassium, as seen in the chart above. This demonstrates the benefit of choosing whole-foods over supplements when it comes to preventing disease; many foods have multiple and possibly synergistic effects that can provide significant health benefits over supplements containing their individual components. Eating one pound (16 ounces) a week of fatty fish like salmon, sardines, halibut, and mackerel is an important dietary strategy for reducing both high blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular disease.

 5. Drink tea.

Habitual tea drinking may help reduce blood pressure, as demonstrated by research mostly conducted in regions where tea is a significant component of the daily diet. (38) There are some teas that may be more effective at reducing blood pressure than others, however, and caffeinated tea may raise blood pressure in the short term. (39, 40) The following teas are ones I recommend consuming if you need to reduce your blood pressure. (If you are taking prescription medicines, talk to your health care provider before drinking these herbal teas.)

Hibiscus tea has been demonstrated to reduce blood pressure in pre- and mildly hypertensive adults. (41, 42) Hibiscus is a small tree with red flowers that are rich in flavonoids, minerals, and other nutrients. (43) Hibiscus tea has a fruity taste that makes it popular as both hot and cold beverage, and experts recommend two to three cups per day to achieve blood pressure reducing effects. I recommend making a large jug of iced, unsweetened hibiscus tea and drinking it in place of water for at least 3 cups of fluid. Add a little honey or stevia if you prefer sweetness, but this tea is delicious on its own.

Hawthorn tea may also be effective as a blood pressure-reducing beverage, and the plant has been used to treat heart disease as far back as the 1st century. (44, 45, 46) The antioxidant-rich tea may help dilate blood vessels and improve blood flow. Dosing guidelines have not been established, but three cups a day is recommended by some health professionals.

Gotu kola tea may be another helpful tea in lowering blood pressure, specifically in the case of venous insufficiency. (47, 48) It is believed that gotu kola might assist in the maintenance of connective tissue, which strengthens weakened veins and helps improve circulation. Again, three cups daily is the current recommendation for this tea.

Finally, oolong and green tea may be beneficial for lowering high blood pressure. One study of more than 1,500 subjects showed that drinking one half to two and a half cups of oolong or green tea on a daily basis can lower a person’s risk of hypertension by 46 percent. (49) As you can see, there are many different teas that can benefit those with high blood pressure, so find one or two you like and drink them regularly.

6. Eat more beets.

Some researchers hypothesize that a major reason the DASH diet is beneficial for lowering blood pressure is that the content of inorganic nitrate in certain vegetables and fruits provides a physiologic substrate for reduction to nitrite, nitric oxide, and other metabolic products that produce vasodilation, decrease blood pressure, and support cardiovascular function. (50)

So take a page out of the Dwight Schrute handbook and eat your beets! Beets are high in nitrates, which, as suggested above, may reduce blood pressure by improving vasodilation. Other foods high in nitrates include celeriac, Chinese cabbage, endive, fennel, kohlrabi, leek, parsley, celery, cress, chervil, lettuce, spinach, and rocket. (Ironically, bacon is another source of dietary nitrate…)

Beet juice in particular has been shown to lower blood pressure in multiple studies. (51, 52) So if you have a juicer, try making some fresh beet juice to drink on a regular basis. If you’re looking for an even healthier form of beet juice, you can also drink beet kvass, which provides probiotics in addition to hypertension-fighting nitrates. It’s an acquired taste for sure, but one that might be helpful to acquire if you’re suffering from hypertension that hasn’t responded to a healthier diet and/or weight loss.

Of course, there are many more recommendations for how to lower blood pressure, including strategic exercise, restful sleep, sun exposure, and meditation, yoga, or other stress management practices. There are also several different supplements that can aid in further lowering blood pressure once these dietary and lifestyle strategies have been made.

Chris has written a great bonus chapter on high blood pressure in his new book, Your Personal Paleo Code, which releases at the end of this year. (I’m so excited!) If you’re struggling with high blood pressure or other common but serious health conditions, I strongly recommend checking out this book for more information on how to address your symptoms by making nutritional and lifestyle changes that will greatly improve your overall health and wellbeing.

Now tell me – have any of you made any changes that helped reduce your blood pressure? Share your story in the comments below!

Comments Join the Conversation

      • adrian says

        Thanks Laura, Both articles are very good and give lots of clarity. I was wondering. Can you over do it with choline. I have been eating three eggs most days and also supplementing 500mg of choline. I have bone broth most days as well – for the glycine.

      • Rs711 says

        How would you suggest that a person dealing with hypertension resolve the ‘Eat more beets’ advice with your first point ‘Reduce excessive carbohydrate intake, especially refined carbs and sugars’?
        I understand it is about replacing one type of carbohydrate with another – but could you expand on how the person should navigate that approach?
        Thanks!

        • says

          Well, a whole cup of cooked beets only has about 12 grams of carbohydrate, so even though they’re higher carb veggies in comparison, I doubt anyone can eat enough of them to cause the high blood sugar caused by excessive amounts of refined grains and sugars. Also, beet kvass is low in sugar because the bacteria ferment most of the sugar in the liquid by the time you drink it. However, I really don’t think eating reasonable amounts of beets should be a problem for someone getting less than 30% of their calories from carbs.

          • Rob says

            The problem is that the studies that were done used beet root juice, not the actual beet. Eating them doesn’t have the same effect, which is why I drink the juice. Yes, it is high in sugar so you probably don’t want to drink it on an empty stomach. If you’re really concerned about sugar then try CoQ10, fish oil (high dose) and Hawthorn. I’m using these as well.

            • Marina says

              Rob,

              I take Green Pastures CLO but my dosage is 2 in the am and 2 of the skate in the evening. What is considered “high dose” for HBP? I know some folks take as high as 8-9 caps for certain conditions. That can get pricey with GP CLO.

              • Rob says

                I’m taking fish oil softgels that provides 900mg of omega-3 fatty acids per capsule. The breakdown is EPA : 600mg, DHA: 300mg. I take 3 a day, which provides 1.8g of omega-3 per day. I also eat salmon and sardines 3-4 times per week and I also take 2 tbsp. of flax meal, which provides 4.5g of omega-3. The flax is not the best source. Fish oil is superior. I plan to buy another brand of fish oil that provides 2.4g of omega-3 per serving. Each serving provides 1,600mg of EPA and 800mg of DHA. The recommended dosage is two servings. That would mean 4.8g of omega-3 per day. The primary reason I’m taking this is to combat inflammation. It is also a blood thinner and has an effect on your BP as well. People wanting to take fish oil need to know this if they are currently on blood thinners. It supposedly has other benefits as well. The fish oil I currently use and the one I plan to buy in future are both molecularly distilled, which means toxins such as mercury are removed. This is important if you plan on taking large amounts on a regular basis.

    • Ben says

      beet kvass, beet juice, or cooked beets are great, as I understand they are high in nitrates which cause more nitric oxide in the blood which lowers blood pressure.

      • Rob says

        The juice is more effective than eating the beets because it is more concentrated. The nitric oxide acts as a vasodilator so anything that dilates your blood vessels will reduce the BP. I buy organic beet root juice from Biotta.

        • ben says

          I have bought that biotta juice, its great, but pretty expensive to do everyday, I think I save a bit by using beet kvass (which is essentially fermented juice) but if I find Its not effective I wouldn’t be opposed to the biotta juice

        • Bernie says

          The biotta beet juice is of high quality. But, it is also high in sugar. 8 ounces of beet juice contains about 28 grams of sugar.

          • Rob says

            Have it with a meal and not on an empty stomach if you’re worried about its high sugar content. I’m also taking CoQ10, which apparently lowers blood sugar.

          • Ben says

            This is one reason why I love beet kvass, the fermentation process eats away some of the sugar, and it seems a bit cheeper :>)

    • Bernie says

      Unfortunately, beet juice is also very high in sugar. About 28 grams of sugar in 8 ounces. If you’re concerned about diabetes, must be careful with beet juice.

    • LMistrot says

      True…also cranberries recommended for the “good” diet contain oxalates. If one already has a small stone, beware.

    • Jill Dingle says

      As a Practice Nurse, I agree that people need to have this information and then they need to be self motivated towards changing their lifestyle for any benifits to happen. The Dr has to address the problem as it presents and offer medication or the Dr would be found negligent by a particular group of discerning clients.

  1. jo says

    Thanks for these suggestions on lowering blood pressure. I have been able to get mine down somewhat by losing weight and will try some of these ideas. Mostly it is my systolic that gets out of wack by 10, 20 or even 30 extra points. It doesn’t seem consistent at all and can jump up and down (from hour to hour or day to day) and seems somewhat erratic to me.

  2. pm says

    Do you think that it is a good idea to supplement with potassium (citrate, gluconate) to achieve the recommended dosage of 4.7grams?

  3. Scott Hamilton says

    I’m a bit confused about the difference between vitamins K1 and K2.

    I am taking a blood thinner (phenprocoumon) due to a pulmonary embolism a few years ago and the drug is described as a “vitamin K antagonist”. Is this referring to K1, K2 or both?

    I believe K1 is the only K that has anything to do with blood clotting but if K2 is being taken down as well by the phenprocoumon should I supplement with K2 to bring it back up to acceptable levels?

  4. says

    My “come to jesus” moment was when I visited a doctor (for the first time in many years), and he commented “you realize you’re on your way for a cardiac event in the next few years with that 170/110 blood pressure of yours”. Egad. Almost immediately went on LCHF (ketogenic) diet, and 6 months later, I was measured at 110/70 after losing over 45 pounds.

    • Marina Barela says

      Excellent news Randal. I’ve been trying to get off meds for quite some time and need a more aggressive approach. I should try your protocol.

    • Rob says

      Significant weight loss will reduce BP as you have described but in my case I have no weight to lose. I mean, I suppose I could lose 5lbs but that would be my limit and that is not going to affect my BP in any significant way, if at all. Many cases of high BP cannot be drastically reduced by natural means. I’ve tried them and they have limited success in my particular case. My diet is good, my weight is very good, I exercise daily and I don’t use salt on my food. My doctor told me it was age/genetics. Being 58 years old and knowing full well that there are many cultures where a person’s BP does not rise with age, I did not easily accept that explanation. The next time I see my doctor he is going to prescribe meds. Not happy about that.

        • Rob says

          The beet root juice is high in sugar but it has contributed to lowering my BP. I drink 1 cup each day. I eat potatoes since they are a goldmine for potassium. My daily potassium intake is upwards of 5000mg. I also drink pomegranate juice (1 cup/day) which has cardiovascular benefits.

          • Rob says

            There are many causes of high BP, not just weight. Sensitivity to salt, family history, narrowed arteries, kidney issues, etc.

        • Subira says

          Sounds like you’re doing everything right, so maybe it’s just the mind-body thing now. Take up meditating, and make sure your digestive system is all good:)

    • Ben says

      Also, I’m in great shape and have eaten quite well for over a decade, I think in my case my mild hypertension is genetic and “hopefully” controllable through natural means. I think we also have to rethink a bit about what “high” is. high is getting lower and lower just like cholesterol, could this be to generate more drug sales perhaps?

      • says

        Couldn’t agree more Ben – I too have wondered if the blood pressure barrier is getting lower. I don’t trust the medical profession as they are so tightly connected to the drug companies.

        I also read recently that lowering high cholesterol is dangerous. Cholesterol rises to cope with the amount of toxins in the body so if it is artificially lowered the body isn’t getting rid of its toxic overload. Interesting thought !!

    • Mike says

      Ben
      Like you also have an issue with mine and eat low carb and do everything as suggested here to no avail. At home Im around 123-128/80…..but through nerves easily raise it like in a docs office to 155/85.
      Im starting a l-arginine/citrulline formula today as well.

      • Ben says

        I have heard that L-arginine can cause blood pressure to rise, so I’d be measuring very regularly, let us know how it goes! It may be that while stacked with L-citrulline it won’t have that effect

    • Rob says

      You sound like me Ben. Tried so many things. Currently using beet root juice and CoQ10 on a sodium reduced/potassium rich diet. Like you I am normal weight and I get exercise daily and have only had modest success.

      • ben says

        Yes rob, I identify with you for sure. I’m 44 and train with a circus handbalancer :) I started to notice slight elevation in my 30′s, which is the time that my dad went on meds who didn’t eat paleo but was very active and “in shape”. I’m trying to win a genetic battle and its hard.

        I’m taking hawthorne and rhodiola (among other things) and have an appointment set up with an MD that thinks like us, trouble is he’s backed up till march. I also know that Dr. Tom Cowan takes phone appointments and am considering that option.

        With deep breathing I can get my systolic down sometimes 20 points, diastolic goes down maybe 5 points.

    • Catherine says

      Your case sounds really difficult, but I was wondering if you’ve actually gone through your diet to see what nutrients you may be not getting enough of, or had genetic testing to see if you have polymorphisms that make you susceptible to nutrient deficiencies due to bad recycling or bad absorption? If you’re really trying to avoid meds, I think it’s definitely worth a shot.

      I’ve always eaten a WAP style diet, and also ended up with health problems in my 20s anyways, and it wasn’t until I really focused on nutrient density, particularly B vitamins from organ meats like kidney, and also dairy, that I started to regain my health. Apparently B vitamins other than folate are difficult to absorb from plant sources, so if you do a dietary analysis, it will seem like you’re getting enough, but it will actually be a huge overestimate.

      Some people have very high nutrient needs due to genetics. Personally, I need to get over the RDA of vitamin B2 and zinc everyday.

      • Ben says

        So I do really well with my diet as far as micronutrients organ meats and oysters, shellfish, you name it. That said, its possible I have some deficiency, It hasn’t shown up on tests yet, but I’m waiting for an appointment to do comprehensive testing

  5. Marg says

    I’ve tried most of the things on this list, Chris. When I went low carb grain free, I noticed an immediate drop in my BP from about 145/95 to 140/85 ish, even before I lost 30 pounds. However, now that I’m about 10 pounds from my goal weight, which will net me a body fat of about 21%, I still have to take the lowest dose of triamtrerene (diuretic) because despite all these measures of low carb and lots of exercise, my unmedicated BP is about 140/90. Currently with the diuretic it’s 120/75. My doctor doesn’t have an answer as to why I have elevated BP, he says it’s “genetic” maybe. I think it may be elevated insulin, which is above normal despite very high fat low carb diet and exercise. Therefore, I can’t be sucking down potatoes and sweet potatoes on a regular basis for the potassium. What are some low carb sources?

  6. Roz says

    Sometimes blood pressure issues are beyond diet/exercise changes. I changed my diet, exercised and lost 40 pounds and my blood pressure barely moved. I exercise and I’m still having issues. My pressure has barely budged. I went from three to two BP meds and that felt like a leap for me. Not giving up yet though.

  7. MR PALEO says

    A NOTE TO EVERYONE:

    “Blood pressure”, per se, is actually misleading… MANY factors affect your “blood pressure”….
    In order to have an actual, MEANINGFUL, repetitive “resting” test session using a sphygmomanometer (pronounced sfig’-mo-ma-nom-e-ter), one needs to do ALL of the following:
    1) be in a resting state, for at LEAST 10 minutes,
    2) in a darkened room
    3) lying down
    4) with no conversation
    5) and no other stimulation
    Now, how many of you have had this EXACT situation as specified, EVER happen in a doctor’s office? I’m betting, close to ZERO… and therein lies part of the problem… ALL of these factors affect the outcome of this testing… as well as others, such as time of day (biorhythms), when you ate last, what you ate, medications, supplements, etc.

    BP really is not NEARLY as accurate a “diagnosis” as most think…

    • Wenchypoo says

      This is quite true–my doctor has us sitting upright in chairs with no arms, so we have to hold our arms out while the machine runs! Good thing we also have our own portable cuffs at home!

    • BillP says

      I would add a 6th item: have your blood pressure taken by yourself or your spouse, instead of a doctor or nurse; you may avoid the common ‘white-coat hypertension’ effect. It’s one that many physicians know about & account for.

  8. Michael says

    Laura, you stated: “Much like high cholesterol, elevated blood pressure (even in the prehypertension stage) is a sure sign of other problems going on in the body.”

    Chris doesn’t appear to agree about the ‘high cholesterol’ part. Indeed, he had a previous post and podcast about “I have high cholesterol and I don’t care.”

    • says

      Depends on what you call “high” cholesterol. I’d say if someone’s cholesterol was above 300, that’s a sign that there’s an underlying health issue. That’s why Chris developed his High Cholesterol Action Plan – some high cholesterol is pathological.

      • Ben says

        So, as Chris Masterjohn has said, with a total chol of over 250 you might start taking notice and looking at things like thyroid, is there a blood pressure range like that? Obviously 250 is above conventional medicine guidelines for cholesterol. Dr Tom Cowan talks about the old rule of 100 + age = systolic over 90, but that is in an article from 2002 or something.

        Thanks,
        Ben

        • Rob says

          Ben & Laura,

          In Canada, and likely in the USA as well, the upper level for normal is 200mg/dl (5.20mmol/L in Canada). I took action when my cholesterol hit 236mg/dl (6.12mmol/L). I was recently diagnosed with high BP so with that additional risk factor my doctor wants my cholesterol levels to come down from my present reading of 198mg/dl). He specifically told me my LDL-C had to be reduced from its current 113mg/dl (2.94mmol/L) to below 80mg/dl (2.0mmol/L). The numbers you folks are tossing around are insane! My numbers are considered high-normal range and still my doctor wanted to put me on a statin. I told him to lay off with the medications until I tried the dietary approach. I managed to bring my TC down from 236 to 185 several years ago on a semi-vegetarian diet. I strayed from that diet and my cholesterol rebounded a bit to its current 198 but I have been on a VLF vegetarian diet (no oils) for a few weeks now to meet the new target levels that my doctor (strongly) suggested. This VLF diet is much stricter than the semi-veg diet I was referring to.

          • says

            Oh yes, the upper limit in medicine in the US is 200 mg/dL before most doctors will try to treat. However, there’s lots of evidence that cholesterol levels in healthy traditional populations range from around 150 mg/dl to 250 mg/dl depending on age and gender.

            Also, total cholesterol is generally a poor predictor of cardiovascular risk without knowing other numbers. A better predictor is LDL particle number or the HDL to triglycerides ratio.

            • Ben says

              Right, so my particle number is low my ratio is like 3.2 (low risk) hdl 89 tris 17 and ldl 186.
              That ldl number would scare a lot of doctors and it puts me over 250 total. So I have suspicion that my t3/rt3 ratio of 14 is too low and possibly the cause of the ldl not clearing, but that is just a hunch. I’ve added back starches in hopes that it will help. I don’t care to get much lower than 250 though.

              • Ben says

                sorry, total to hdl is 3.2 and hdl to tris is .19, it would take A LOT for me to go on a statin though I’m considering a low dose bp medicine till I can figure out how to get it down naturally.

            • Rob says

              I’ve no idea what my LDL is large or dense. That test is almost never done. I mentioned it to my doctor but he felt the main concern is lowering my LDL-C and not to worry abut particle size. I’m still curious. I’d like to know if I have mostly A or B type particles.

              I had an EKG done in August and the was a comment that basically said that I may have had a possible inferior (mild) myocardial infarction at some point in the past. I followed that up with a positive stress test, which is not what you want.

              Since I neither smoke nor get chest pains (at rest nor exercising) my doctor had me go through a nuclear stress test, where they inject a tracer into your bloodstream and have you go 12 minutes on the treadmill. The technician administering the test didn’t see anything troubling from the EKG during the test. I still have to await the heart scans taken during the test. The scans will indicate problem areas where blood flow is compromised. This test was also done to see if the previous stress test was merely a false positive.

              This is why my doctor wants my LDL-C under 80mg/dl. He also wanted to put me on a statin and a BP lowering med as well. I’m currently on neither.

      • ben says

        Laura, what is your general opinion of this (I got it from the online calculator)
        Obviously the calculator doesn’t like some of these numbers! :>)

        Your Total Cholesterol of 280 is HIGH RISK
        Your LDL of 186 is HIGH RISK
        Your HDL of 87 is OPTIMAL
        Your Triglyceride level of 32 is OPTIMAL

        RATIOS:

        Your Total Cholesterol/HDL ratio is: 3.22 – (preferably under 5.0, ideally under 3.5) IDEAL
        Your HDL/LDL ratio is: 0.468 – (preferably over 0.3, ideally over 0.4) IDEAL
        Your triglycerides/HDL ratio is: 0.402 – (preferably under 4, ideally under 2) IDEAL

  9. Shirley says

    I lost 40 lbs but my blood pressure didn’t change – in fact at times it was higher than ever. Then I read about a discovery that was made by NUCCA chiropractors. People who had a history of neck trauma, e.g.whiplash, and misalignment of their atlas [vertabra] often were able to go off HTN medication after corrective alignment. Mine is still unstable but since I’ve had nUCCA therapy my blood pressure is normal while on anti-hypertensive medication.

  10. Paulette says

    Chris, any advice for someone with high blood pressure, on blood thinners and cannot take vit k? And developing PAD?

  11. Umm Musa says

    Dear Chris
    As always, very clear guidelines, thank you. However, I have not found that this has been sufficient to help my dad. He is 80, still plays tennis twice a week and mom makes sure he eats really healthy. They are eating very healthy, following ancestral health guidelines (yes to beets, grassfed dairy (they live in Switzerland), lots of fish, veggies, fruits) and while mom has stopped eating grain products, dad still eats bread and pastries on a weekly basis. Despite taking blood pressure meds he has wildly fluctuating levels from over 190/110 to low 60/45(!). Could the occasional indulgence in pastries and bread really be the thing that makes it necessary for him to take the meds? And is it possible that the off-gluten days cause his blood pressure to drop so much?

  12. Beth says

    Here are things that have helped lower my blood pressure (which was consistently around 160/100 when I was 27 and skinny).

    Coconut oil – it was when I started taking 3 Tbsp. a day that I was able to get off the BP meds that my doc had put me on, which he said I’d be on for life. I don’t still supplement with it, just use it with food.

    Ubiquinol – My Metametrix Organic Acids profile showed that I really needed CoQ10. I found that once I started supplementing with 100 mgs of Ubiquinol twice a day, my blood pressure dropped.

    Liquid Chlorophyll – I began taking this because it functions as an internal deodorant and was surprised to find my BP readings dropped considerably after a couple of weeks.

    I also tend to agree with Ben as to what is considered high. I think I naturally run a little higher, but I know that my heart is in good shape. My cholesterol is stellar with really high HDL, and my resting heart rate is around 51. I had a nurse ask me if I was a runner, because such a low resting heart rate is usually only seen in athletes. I told her no, sometimes I walk the dog and that’s about it. :) I credit it to all of the saturated fat I eat, and probably the Ubiquinol as well.

    And if Mr. Paleo is right, and I only have to be concerned by what my bp reading would be after lying in a quiet, darkened room for 10 minutes, then I don’t have to worry about my bp at all. It’s always low after acupuncture, which pretty much mimics the above situation!

  13. Kiki says

    I was able to get off all my BP meds after seeing a shrink for 1 year. My high BP was due to a specific, and hopefully uncommon, situation of extremely dysfunctional family. My excessive intake of alcohol in an effort to drown out problems was also surely a contributor. If you happen to be in a similar situation, I recommend seeking out a PhD psychologist trained in EMDR.

  14. pm says

    If you have tried everything and yet are still having trouble lowering their Bp, I would suggest considering the fact that electromagnetic pollution in your environment can cause hypertension, not to mention innumerable other degenerative diseases. Smart meters, power lines, electrical appliances and even electrical outlets throughout your home are sources of damaging radio and magnetic fields that can cause you continual harm. I’ve found that Stetzerizer filters can block one significant source of emf found in every home at the electrial outlets. http://www.stetzerizer-us.com/

    Earthing mats are reputed to help to lower BP as electrons gained from the earth can increase the zeta potential of you red blood cells, causing them to repel from one another. This makes your blood less viscous and promotes profusion. http://www.earthing.com/

  15. Rob says

    Anyone have any success using CoQ10 to lower BP? I’m considering a dosage of 120mg/day to help lower my BP. I also drink a cup of beet root juice each day as it is a vasodilator.

  16. pam says

    thanks. Laura

    some anecdotes: a colleagues of my said that Pu-erh + chrysasamon tea helped his blood pressure.
    another swears by magnesium foot bath (not surprising)

    regards,

  17. Steve says

    What is your opinion on a high systolic, low diastolic, low HR profile in an endurance athlete?
    My Omron usually measures around 135/70 with the HR being around 40-44. I run 5x a week and am in pretty good shape otherwise (under 3h Marathons). I eat paleo with safe carbs (potatoes, white rice, etc.) due to the running.
    Should I consider taking BP meds?

    • Rob says

      Steve,

      I wish my BP was just 135/70! My BP was around 155/90+, sometimes approaching 160/95 until I started drinking beet root juice and pomegranate juice, 1 cup of each per day. My BP seems to be a stable 145/90 now. Not great but 10 points lower, which in your case would bring it to an ideal range. But this is just assumption on my part based upon results I’ve seen with myself. If I were you, I’d try any and all natural methods before going with meds. One other thing, my sodium intake is generally below 1500mg per day even though I’m not sold on the concept of sodium as a cause of high BP. It wasn’t the cause in my case. Also, my potassium intake is upwards of 4000mg per day, often exceeding 5000mg.

  18. Adrin says

    Hi Chris,

    I signed up for your High Cholesterol Action Plan and Paleo Code. I also read your 9 steps to Perfect Health – followed up with reading Body by Science and introducing High Intensity Exercise once a week, as well as meditation using the ‘Who am I’ approach. I incorporated all of the 5 steps you list above as a part of program. Using all of the above, and also using the Perfect Health Diet Guidelines as a structure I lowered my Blood Pressure from 157 over 80 to 120 over 75, as well as getting cholesterol right and at rest heart rate down to low 60s. I lost 12 kilos (26 lbs) along the way.

    I am grateful to you, Chris Masterjohn, and Paul & Shou-Ching Shih Jaminet and others in the Paleo Community for the excellent research and writing you do.

    Cheers, Adrian

    • Marina Barela says

      What a great accomplishment, Adrian. Congratulations! Were you on BP meds before you started the program?

      • adrian says

        No Marina, but what got me moving was the doctor’s pressure to go on BP and Cholesterol drugs. They also wanted to take out my gallbladder but I did 6 gallbladder flushes over 5 months until no gallstones were coming out any more.

        • Marina barela says

          I’ve done two GB flushes 2nd one 6 mos later. One of the best cleanses. It was amazing. The 2nd one proved the 1st one was pretty successful. I’ll do them yearly. Great that you healed yourself. I can’t wait til I’ve handled my HBP. When I take my meds I feel like I’m poisoning myself, which I am. I take the med with disgust. I’ll follow your protocol after I’ve completed another course I’m taking (The Whole Journey w/Christa Orecchio) she’s excellent. I’m so happy to have found Chris Kresser. My chol a little high but I’ve ditched those meds long ago when the myth was debunked. I’ll be taking Chris’ chol course soon.

          Yours in health

  19. fel says

    Hi a bit concerned in regards of potassium. Most products i can find in the UK are around the 99mg mark in various forms(aspartate, gluconate, chelate and so on….)
    that would mean i ve to down a bottle every 3 days eg 30 pills to get the 4000mg benchmark as promoted here

    • Rob says

      Where I live in Canada you can only find the low dosage potassium supplements on the shelf. They keep the higher dose stuff in behind the counter. I had to ask the pharmacist. I mostly get my potassium from food though and I get around 5000mg per day. My supplement is 600mg/capsule.

        • Rob says

          To tell you the truth, I didn’t start noticing any real change in my BP until I added beet root juice. I recently added CoQ10 so with all these things being applied simultaneously its would be hard to attribute success to any one factor. Having said that I believe the juice is helping and I will continue to keep my daily potassium intake around 5000mg. I’m going to purchase a BP monitor as well. It will allow me to track my BP throughout the day, at home (which is the most relaxed environment for me). I’m curious to see how my BP changes a few hours after having had a cup of beet juice.

  20. pm says

    I was told by a holistic physician that blood pressure, contrary to allopathic views, is primarily regulated in the kidneys. So it may not be a bad idea for those with recalcitrant BP numbers to have your kidney checked for potential issues.

    Niacin might be another vitamin people should consider for hypertension. It’s a vasodilator and can also help to raise HDL levels. I take nicotinic acid form at 150 mg 3 times daily (I buy it bulk and make my own capsules), though many take as much as 3 grams without issue. Flushing is the only side effect and is harmless. Niacinomide is the flush free form.

    • Rob says

      Good point and I was wondering the same thing but I don’t seem to have any kidney issues and results from blood work and urine analysis don’t seem to point to kidney related issues either. Like Ben, I seem to be doing everything right. My doctor told me it was likely factors that are out of my control (genetics, luck of the draw). Haven’t tried niacin (or nicotinic acid) but I do have a cup of beet root juice which is also a vasodilator. Not sure taking both would be wise. It would come down to which one is better. That, I don’t know.

      • pm says

        I been taking niacin and 8 oz beet juice daily for 3 years without a problem. But do your own research and do what you think is best of course.

        • Rob says

          I’d like to ask my doctor about Niacin but given his opinion that natural methods are only marginally effective I could be talking to a brick wall. How long was it using the niacin/beet juice therapy did you see results? Prior to taking beet root juice along with a high potassium/low sodium diet my BP was around 155-160/90+. It has stabilized at 145/90.

          • pm says

            It’s hard for me to attribute the lowering of my BP to normal levels to just two supplements and herbs, since I take so many and have made changes in my diet as well. But when my beet juice and niacin regimen was interrupted for a month (due to an shipping error), I did see a rise. It took about two months before I started to see my number go back down.

            Dr. Abram Hoffer and Dr. Andrew Saul book, “Niacin The Real Story” , explains in detail the safety and wide range of diseases that can be cured by niacin supplementation. http://www.doctoryourself.com/

          • Rob says

            I got myself a BP monitor so I can check my BP anytime I want. At the doctors office it is always elevated somewhat. I’ve had readings of 142/84, 123/77 and 130/80. I will take the monitor to my next visit with my doctor so I can compare it with his cuff. If it is working properly then it appears that my diet and supplements are working. I certainly won’t take meds for a modestly high BP. The only thing I haven’t tried is stress/tension reduction. I tend to be a bit highly strung like my mother so I’m sure this could be quite beneficial to someone like me. It could be the last piece of the puzzle to keeping my BP near normal.

            p.s. The 123/77 reading came after watching some Family Guy videos on YouTube, leading me to believe that I just need to relax and laugh more. ;o)

    • Ben says

      Hey PM,

      Has niacin lowered your blood pressure significantly and also lowered your ldl? What brand do you buy in bulk?

      Thanks!
      Ben

    • Anonymous PCP says

      As an allopathic, primary care physician, I know I speak for most of us in that we know the kidneys play a crucial part in, amongst many other things, BP control. That is why nephrologists are hypertension specialists. Without getting to deep into it as I have patients to see soon I’ve always felt you need a balance of western and CAM (complementary and alternative medicine). Fortunately, some of you have been helped with CAM. Unfortunately, some of you sound like you need to see a physician and have him/her take a good history and physical and get some labs checked. A fine example is one of my patients who eventually was diagnosed with mesenteric occlusive disease(narrowing due to plaque buildup) as a cause for her uncontrollable HTN. Occasionally, I hear an abnormal rhythm or murmur with my stethoscope and eventually find out some patients have atrial fibrillation (a nice risk factor for stroke) or significant heart valve disease requiring intervention. So please do not underestimate your need to be evaluated by a physician. And, yes, there are many of us allopathic physicians who do NOT like prescribing pills just to treat a symptom when all it might be is a magnesium deficiency or, as in the case above, require significant surgical intervention.

      • pm says

        Thank you setting the record straight. I’ve never had my kidneys checked while being treated for hypertension from allopathic physicians. Now I know to seek out a nephrologist, which is especially helpful because my insurance will cover this.

  21. Maggie says

    I began a regimen of magnesium, potassium, and hawthorn berry extract a year ago, and my (genetic) blood pressure is back down well within normal ranges. I am slim, calm, and healthy….but my family members all have high blood pressure, and so did I. Much better now, and a big load off my mind.

    • Ben says

      Thats good news Maggie! I’ve been doing mag and hawthorn, just added in some potassium can you give me what your bp was and what it is now and the exact amounts of the supplements you are taking?

      Thanks!
      Ben

      • Rob says

        UPDATE:

        I bought an OMRON 3 Series BP monitor back in December. From the multiple readings I take each day it appears that I must be experiencing white-coat syndrome. The BP readings at the doctor’s office are typically 145/90, sometimes higher. At home, anything from 105/65 to 137/85 but normally in the low 120s over 70s. I’ve only had one reading of 140/90 in the 4 weeks I’ve been monitoring my BP. I stopped taking the beet root juice and the BP readings are still good. I don’t drink pomegranate juice as often as I used to. I continue to take CoQ10 (120mg/day) and fish oil (3g/day) and my diet is still high potassium/low sodium. I also drink hawthorn tea every day. Recently I’ve added hibiscus tea to my herbal tea list. I try to keep caffeine to an absolute minimum. BTW, I saw my doctor 3 weeks ago and showed him a list of my BP readings. One thing I’ve taken away from monitoring my BP at home is how meaningless an occasional BP reading at the doctor’s office really is. BP changes constantly, minute by minute. Case in point: I took three readings, 2 minutes apart and they were 132/80, 127/74 and 125/75. Typically, my first reading is the highest. As I relax more the BP comes down. I’m never relaxed at the doctor’s office when he is measuring my BP. I think this has put an end to the BP-lowering meds discussion.

        p.s. This morning my BP reading was 123/68. Following a brief (5-6 minute) relaxation break my BP was 105/70.

  22. says

    I recently added a Potassium supplement and have been taking it daily. My blood pressure has been down over 20 points since adding this supplement to my daily diet. Check with your doctor first, and then if they approve, add potassium to your daily diet, too.

  23. L. says

    I tried an verbal supplement called Carditone by Ayesh Herbs that worked for several years. You can find it on Amazon along with reviews.

  24. Ben says

    My new doctor is recommending I try the paleo auto immune protocol for high blood pressure. Its really a spartan diet, very restrictive and I don’t want to do it if its not going to work :) Any ideas?

      • Ben says

        As many questions as I asked I didn’t get a good answer there other than my low TSH and history of lichen planus. As far as why it would help with high blood pressure I don’t know.
        He is also having me reduce salt to see if I’m salt sensitive, that makes sense.

        I’m pretty skeptical of the auto immune approach but willing to try because the next step is ace inhibitor.

        I will miss my eggs, butter, and bulletproof decaf!!

      • Ben says

        Just because he is paleo friendly, doesn’t mean he is a good doctor :) I’m just trying him out to get a second opinion and he is the only one in our area (chapel hill) that takes my insurance.

  25. says

    Heat application also lowers BP – sometimes a lot so be care of fainting if you already tend toward low-normal BP (I do). This takes the form of sauna, steam, hottubs, heating pads, etc. heat causes the blood vessels to dilate which in turn lowers BP.

    If you try out the steam/sauna/hottub approach watch for headaches afterward. I have to supplement with salts to prevent a dehydration headache. Other than that, a great way to spend a day “chilling” at the hydrotherapy spa!

  26. C.T. says

    I’ve been taking Fortzaar (Hydrochlorothiazide & Losartan potassium) until then my physician put me off it due to low blood sodium level. Currently I am taking Exforge (10mg amlodipine, 160mg valsartan), yet I couldn’t get good control on my blood pressure. Is there any risk factors that my physician had missed?

  27. Shirley Jacobson says

    One thing to consider when BP is difficult to control with diet, medicines, herbs is dislocation of the atlas (the top vertebrae that the head sits on. Studies by a chiropractic specialty found that when the atlas was adjusted some people were able to come off their meds. because their BP automatically dropped. People who have had whiplash injury or other similar types of injury to the cervical spine are at risk. I am one of those. After 10 years on calcium channel blockers I am weaning off them and the diuretics also. Google NUCCA (National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association for more information.

  28. Tami says

    What the H*ll is “ghee” and “kefir”? I am 56 years old, a medical professional, and I have never heard of these food items. Also, the statement that fish oil supplements may actually contribute to cardiovascular issues is ridiculous. Perhpas one or two studies have suggested this (studies done on men in Whales?). Millions of people in America are taking fish oil supplements and you are suggesting that are contributing to cardiovascular issues. Crazy. Also, tea. Yes, tea is good, and can be good for you in my opinion. But here’s something to consider. My friend of 51 years, drank tea religiously almost her entire life. She lived a good clean life, eating well and drinking tea. Didn’t smoke. She just died of ovarian cancer. So, what is your suggestion here? Bottom line.. many disease are inherited. Hyptertension and cardiovascular disease is one of them. No mention in here of that. Why not, when it probably one of the most important contributors to these issues. Sometimes you fanatic natural nutritionists think you have all the answers, suggesting we consume your crazy, unrealistic foods (ghee and kefir) to cure us of our ailments, when the answers lie in our DNA.

    • Commenter says

      If you don’t know what something is just google it. Ghee is clarified butter, and it’s yummy. Kefir is sold at most grocery stores near the milk, buttermilk, etc.? You need to get out more instead of cussing on the computer, lol. Someone asked me at work today whether they needed a visa to a certain country, and I found the answer in an instant by googling it. This is the age of knowlege, so you use it:)

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