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Tips to Lower Blood Pressure Fast in Emergencies

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Hypertension (high blood pressure) is defined as blood pressure readings over 130/80 mmHg. It is a widespread condition that affects nearly half of all adults in the United States. There are dozens of effective blood pressure medications that can lower blood pressure. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that only 1 in 4 adults with hypertension have their blood pressure under control. 

People who have high blood pressure can experience a hypertensive crisis, which is a severe increase in systolic blood pressure (upper number) to 180 mmHg or higher and diastolic blood pressure (lower number) to 120 mmHg or higher. Hypertensive emergencies can damage the blood vessels and cause them to leak fluid or blood. A hypertensive emergency can also lead to stroke and prevent the heart from pumping blood effectively.

So, how do you know if you are experiencing a hypertensive emergency? And what can you do to manage high blood pressure in an emergency? Please continue reading to find out.

How do you know when high blood pressure is an emergency?

If you measure your blood pressure at home and find that the readings are at or above 180 mmHg for systolic blood pressure (the top number) or 120 mmHg for diastolic pressure (the bottom number), it is an emergency, and you should call 911 immediately. 

You may experience signs and symptoms of a hypertensive crisis, such as:

  • Severe headache
  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion 
  • Severe chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Severe anxiety
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Seizures

Extremely high blood pressure can affect cerebral blood flow and blood flow to target organs like the heart, kidneys, and eyes, causing serious complications.

What can you do to make blood pressure return to normal?

It is not possible to treat dangerously high blood pressure at home. The only thing you can do until EMS arrives is lie flat and try to keep yourself calm with deep breaths. If your doctor has prescribed a blood pressure medication, you can take it at this time. 

Some people find that sipping on chamomile or hibiscus tea helps (caffeine intake with beverages like black tea and coffee should be avoided because caffeine raises blood pressure). 

Others find that eating a piece of dark chocolate or berries like strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, or raspberries can help with managing high blood pressure. 

However, it is important to know that these measures will not instantly lower blood pressure.

What is the quickest way of controlling high blood pressure?

It is not usually possible to lower blood pressure immediately without medical intervention. Doctors use intravenous antihypertensive medications for immediate treatment. This treatment needs to be given very carefully because reducing blood pressure immediately by a lot can cause other problems. Therefore, it is important to seek professional medical care to lower your blood pressure in an emergency.

How can I lower my blood pressure over time?

High blood pressure (hypertension) is a silent killer, meaning it frequently does not cause any symptoms. Yet, high blood pressure is a major risk factor for kidney disease, heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. 

Rather than trying to stop hypertension immediately during a hypertensive urgency, the best way of lowering blood pressure is with a slow and steady approach. 

Here are some lifestyle changes that can help to reduce your risk of elevated blood pressure and other chronic health conditions.

Lose weight

In people who are overweight or obese, there is extra pressure on the artery walls. This pressure on the blood vessels can lead to high blood pressure over time. Losing weight can help with lowering blood pressure. The best way to lose weight is by leading a healthy lifestyle--eating healthy and getting regular physical activity. 

Eat a healthy diet

Some foods are good for heart health and have additional wide-ranging health benefits. These include fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, fish, low-fat dairy, nuts, and vegetable oils low in saturated fat. Foods to avoid include processed foods, sugary foods, fatty red meats, trans fats, and saturated fats. 

Get regular exercise

Regular exercise is important to keep the heart and blood vessels strong and healthy and prevent high blood pressure. You should aim to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day (experts recommend 150 minutes of moderate exercise for most healthy people). Low-impact exercises such as walking are typically okay for most people. However, always talk to your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise program. 

Reduce your sodium consumption

High sodium intake (salt intake) is linked to high blood pressure. In general, the salt intake in the average American diet is way above the recommended limit, with most of it coming from processed foods. Lowering your salt consumption can help bring your blood pressure numbers down within weeks if you have increased blood pressure. Increasing your potassium intake can also help counteract some of the damage caused by high sodium. Potassium-rich foods include bananas, tomatoes, spinach, beans, and clams.

Don’t drink too much alcohol

Heavy alcohol drinking is linked to high blood pressure. Limiting alcohol intake to two drinks per day or fewer for men and one drink per day or fewer for women can help to prevent high blood pressure.

Quit Smoking

Smoking causes the blood vessels to narrow, which raises your blood pressure. Quitting smoking can help treat elevated blood pressure and reduce your risk of other serious health conditions. 

Work on managing stress

Stress can cause you to drink more, overeat, and not get enough restful sleep, leading to increased blood pressure. Reducing stress can therefore help to lower your risk of high blood pressure. You can reduce stress by participating in meditation, yoga, walking, painting, gardening, listening to music, or spending time with friends and family. Don’t hesitate to talk to a therapist and learn healthy coping mechanisms for chronic stress if you need to.

Wrapping Up: How to lower blood pressure immediately?

High blood pressure is a common condition that affects millions of Americans. Unfortunately, many Americans do not have their blood pressure under control, which puts them at an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, which are leading causes of death in the US. 

High blood pressure (hypertension) does not typically cause any symptoms, so the only way to know if you have this condition is to check your resting blood pressure with a home blood pressure cuff or have it measured in your doctor’s office. If you find that you consistently have higher blood pressure readings, talk to your doctor about lifestyle changes and/or starting a medication to control high blood pressure. 

You should know that there is no way of controlling very high blood pressure at home in an emergency. If you are experiencing a hypertensive crisis (your blood pressure is at or over 180/120 mmHg), you should call 911 and try to bring your blood pressure lower by lying flat and keeping as calm as possible until help arrives.

References:

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/index.htm
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/expert-answers/hypertensive-crisis/faq-20058491#
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/facts.htm#:~: