For most people, hypertension (or high blood pressure) doesn't come with warning signs. The only way you'd know you have it is through a blood pressure reading.
But over time, high blood pressure that's left unchecked can damage different parts of your body, including your arteries, heart, brain, kidneys, eyes and more, according to the Mayo Clinic.
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Fortunately, there are lifestyle changes you can make to help lower your blood pressure naturally. "Trying these changes in the morning — when your pressure begins to rise, even before you wake — is a particularly good time to start," says John Higgins, MD, a sports cardiologist with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth in Houston.
Morning is also the time when cardiac events like stroke or heart attack are more likely to happen, Dr. Higgins adds. Sometimes, these heart problems can be brought on, in part, by an elevated morning blood pressure.
Here, learn the best morning habits to lower blood pressure — whether you've been diagnosed with hypertension or are just looking to keep your heart healthy.
1. Limit Your Caffeine
Hate to break it to you, but your morning cup of coffee could lead to unhealthily high blood pressure levels — especially if you drink several cups.
This is because caffeine is a stimulant, which can add a pep in your step, but can also spike your blood pressure.
While the exact reason why this happens is up for debate, some experts believe it's because caffeine may block a hormone that helps widen your arteries. Others believe it's because caffeine may cause your adrenal glands to release more adrenaline, according to the Mayo Clinic.
"Two to four cups of coffee (approximately 200 to 300 milligrams of caffeine) will typically increase blood pressure by about 8mm Hg systolic (i.e., the top number) and 6 mm Hg diastolic (i.e., the bottom number)," Dr. Higgins says.
The good news? This spike doesn't usually last long. It "wears off in about four hours," Dr. Higgins says.
Still, to help keep your morning blood pressure stable, start the day with a cup of decaf, he says. And if you're still craving caffeine, hold off until late morning and stick to a single cup.
If you have a history of heart problems or hypertension, talk to your doctor to figure out how much caffeine you can have per day, according to the Mayo Clinic.
2. Eat a Balanced Breakfast
Have a habit of skipping breakfast? Missing this meal can actually have a major effect on your blood pressure.
In fact, skipping breakfast is associated with hypertension in adults, according to a March 2022 meta-analysis in the International Journal of Hypertension.
And it's not just when you eat, but what you eat that's equally important. For example, a low-fat yogurt parfait with nuts and fruit is a great, balanced breakfast that promotes better blood pressure for several reasons, Dr. Higgins says.
For one, nuts are rich in omega-3s, or healthy fats. Just one cup of nuts (like walnuts, almonds or hazelnuts) daily is linked to a reduction in systolic blood pressure up to 8 mm Hg, Dr. Higgins adds. Plus, fruits like kiwi, banana and oranges have been associated with lower blood pressure, he says.
On top of that, fruits and nuts are typically important parts of the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet, both of which are rich in plant-based foods, and can help lower blood pressure significantly, per an August 2020 paper in Kardiologia Polska.
3. Skip Sugar
From donuts to pastries and cereal, your favorite breakfast foods may unfortunately be filled with added sugars. And too much sugar can affect your blood pressure.
"Eating sugar — especially high-fructose corn syrup — can affect the pathways in your body related to the hormone aldosterone and the peptide endothelin, which both help regulate blood pressure," Dr. Higgins says.
Plus, "high blood sugar levels are associated with atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in your arteries), which will lead to stiffer arteries and, eventually, elevations in blood pressure," Dr. Higgins says.
To prevent this, limit the amount of added sugar you eat and drink each day. Be especially mindful when eating things like breakfast bars, yogurts and cereals, which often have added sweeteners. For reference, any food with a 20 percent (or higher) daily value (DV) of sugar is considered a high-sugar food, per the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
The natural sugars in fruits and vegetables do not raise blood pressure, per Dr. Higgins. So feel free to pile your breakfast plate with these nutritious foods.
4. Exercise Regularly
While a strenuous workout will get your heart pumping and temporarily raise your blood pressure readings, exercising in the morning is a great way to support healthy blood pressure overall.
Two and a half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (or 75 minutes of high-intensity aerobic exercise) and/or strength training for 90 to 150 minutes each week can lower blood pressure as much as 5 mm Hg, Dr. Higgins says.
5. Meditate in the Morning
Getting your body to relax — especially at the start of the day — can have a positive effect on your blood pressure levels. This can achieved through a meditation practice, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
In fact, people with mild hypertension who practice mindfulness-based meditation were found to have reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure in studies, according to University of Maryland Medical System.
One of the reasons meditation works in this instance? Your body is prompted to produce more nitric oxide, which helps widen your blood vessels, thereby lowering blood pressure, per Harvard Health Publishing.
You can use meditation and breathing techniques to lower your blood pressure at any time of day, but morning meditation can be especially helpful to start your day with a sense of calm, per Dr. Higgins.
If you're new to meditation, start slow. Try sitting quietly for five minutes in the morning. You can try to work your way up to 20 minutes, but if you don't have time, five minutes will do the trick.
Here are some steps for a mindfulness-based meditation, to promote your body's relaxation response, per Harvard Health Publishing:
- Sit in a quiet place with your eyes closed.
- Relax your muscles and silently repeat a word, phrase, sound or short prayer of your choosing over and over.
- When stray thoughts interfere (as they will), let them come and go and return to your word, phrase or sound.
- Mayo Clinic: “How does caffeine affect blood pressure?”
- International Journal of Hypertension: “Skipping Breakfast Is Associated with Hypertension in Adults: A Meta-Analysis”
- Kardiologia Polska: “Dietary interventions in blood pressure lowering: current evidence in 2020”
- Harvard Health Publishing: “Meditation and a relaxation technique to lower blood pressure”
- University of Maryland Medical System: ”Yes, Meditation Can Help Lower Your Blood Pressure”
- Mayo Clinic: “High blood pressure dangers: Hypertension's effects on your body”
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Added Sugar"
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.