High blood pressure (BP) can be deadly — a chilling reality for more than a billion people around the world who live with the condition. So, wouldn’t it be nice if you could lower your BP by just sipping on the right drink?
Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. No magic tonic reverses high blood pressure (hypertension) sip by sip. The cause of high BP is much too complex to be resolved with a quick pour.
But what’s in your cup could nudge your blood pressure down or drive it up. So, what’s a healthy choice for a beverage? Let’s quench that thirst for knowledge with cardiologist Luke Laffin, MD.
What to drink to lower blood pressure
High blood pressure isn’t caused by ONE thing in your life. Typically, a multitude of factors — usually including diet, physical activity and genetics — combine in some way to push BP numbers into the danger zone.
Adjusting what you eat and drink can help you naturally shift your BP into a healthy range. The DASH diet (which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is a good starting point for what to put on your plate.
But here’s what you might want to consider to wash down those good eats.
When it comes to popularity contests, beets (or beetroot) don’t fare all that well. A few years ago in fact, an online poll identified the blood-red root vegetable as the second least favorite vegetable in America.
Hmm … maybe that’s part of the reason why high BP is such a problem?
Research shows that dietary nitrates in beets offer anti-inflammatory benefits that can contribute to lower blood pressure. Nitrates help open (or dilate) blood vessels to reduce the pressure needed to pump blood through your body.
“There is some data behind the idea that beets might lower blood pressure,” says Dr. Laffin. “But if it does help, it’ll just be a little bit.”
Juices high in potassium
It’s no secret that excess sodium in your diet can boost your blood pressure. But did you know that adding potassium to your diet can knock your BP down a few notches by lowering sodium levels?
Potassium works with your kidneys to excrete sodium and give it the heave-ho from your system. The nutrient also improves your overall vascular health to help blood flow more easily.
“Adding potassium to your diet tends to decrease blood pressure,” shares Dr. Laffin. (To put a number to it, getting the recommended amount of potassium in your diet can lower your BP by roughly 4 to 5 mmHg.)
Juices high in potassium include:
- Prune juice.
- Carrot juice.
- Pomegranate juice.
- Orange juice.
Although grapefruit juice is high in potassium, caution is advised. Grapefruit juice can interact poorly with some blood pressure medications. Talk to your healthcare provider before considering it.
Overall, look for 100% juice and try to avoid products with added sugars. Don’t go overboard on chugging juice, either: Even though it’s high in vitamins and nutrients, it’s also loaded with calories and natural sugar.
In addition, watch your potassium consumption if you have kidney disease, as your kidneys may struggle to process the nutrient. Kidney disease is often a byproduct of high blood pressure.
Low-fat dairy is a key part of the DASH diet — and skim milk qualifies.
Researchers found that consumption of low-fat dairy may help lower BP. The potassium in milk is one reason. High levels of vitamin D, phosphorous and calcium in milk also may impact blood pressure.
Brewing and sipping a cup of tea is relaxing. It’s the sort of activity that can melt away stress that sends blood pressure levels soaring.
But that’s just the start. Many teas also contain compounds that reduce inflammation and keep blood vessels open and flexible. Given that, it’s easy to see why the beverage is a go-to choice for lowering BP.
Hibiscus tea generally gets top marks for its work on BP. Ditto for chamomile tea.
Drinks that raise blood pressure
While there’s no drink guaranteed to lower blood pressure, downing glasses of beverages in these four categories will almost certainly drive your BP up:
- Alcohol. There’s no question that people enjoy alcohol and that it’s ingrained in our culture. There’s also little debate that it’s not good for our health. Hypertension is among the more than 200 health disorders linked to alcohol consumption. Research shows that people who consume a lot of alcohol but then stop drinking can see a rapid decrease in BP.
- Caffeinated drinks. While caffeine may help jumpstart your day, it’s not ideal for your BP — especially if you’re drinking cup after cup of coffee. People with high blood pressure who drink two or more cups of regular coffee daily double their risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke, reports the American Heart Association.
- Sugary sodas and drinks. Added sugar can drive up blood pressure — and sodas and other sweet drinks are LOADED with added sugar. (Consider BP part of the long list of health concerns about these drinks, which can actually shorten your lifespan.)
- Energy drinks. Amped-up energy drinks typically combine high levels of caffeine and sugar, neither of which are BP-friendly. Bottom line? “These drinks are horrible for you,” states Dr. Laffin.
Top ways to lower blood pressure
If your blood pressure runs a tad high, the fact that you’re looking up ways to lower it is a good sign. Changing what you pour into a glass can be a small part of your process to bring down your BP.
What else can you do? For starters, you can:
- Limit sodium intake.
- Adjust your diet.
- Embrace fitness.
- Get enough sleep.
- Minimize stress.
“Small changes to your routine can make a big difference,” encourages Dr. Laffin. “Every little bit helps.”
Even what you drink.