So you just left the doctor's office and were told that your BP is a little too high, and now you need a way to lower blood pressure fast. The good news is that there are lots of natural ways to lower blood pressure, but it doesn't happen overnight. You just have to be diligent and consistent.
While water does play a vital role in sodium balance, drinking water won't necessarily flush sodium out of the body. You can balance sodium levels by increasing your intake of potassium, though. And, as a result, your blood pressure may normalize, too.
Sodium and water are intricately connected in the body, but if you're overdoing it on the sodium, drinking a lot of water won't be enough to counteract that and flush it out of your body. You can balance sodium levels by watching your intake, upping the amount of potassium-rich foods you eat and making sure you get enough water each day.
Water and Sodium Balance
Water and sodium are tightly connected and regulated by complex mechanisms. The volume of water you have in your body and its concentration of sodium (and other electrolytes) doesn't change much, even with significant changes in dietary intake of sodium and/or water, according to the Merck Manual. That's because, if this balance is ever thrown off, these mechanisms either excrete excess water and sodium, or trigger your thirst to make you drink more water.
The amount (or concentration) of sodium per volume of body fluid is called osmolarity. In order for you to stay healthy, osmolarity must remain within a certain range. That means, if you lose a lot of water from sweating, for example, and the concentration of water in your body gets low, your body starts to excrete sodium in your urine with the help of your kidneys. Getting rid of the extra sodium helps maintain the osmolarity, since the volume of water has gone down.
On the other hand, if you drink a lot of water and the volume of your body fluid goes up, the body will actually hold onto the sodium in an effort to maintain that osmolarity so that the fluid doesn't get too diluted. Similarly, if you consume too much sodium, the body will hold onto water to maintain that same concentration. This is why consuming a lot of sodium is connected to high blood pressure.
Since the body holds onto water and sodium with increasing consumption of either, the volume of fluid in the blood vessels goes up (even though the diameter of the blood vessels doesn't change) and the heart has to work harder to pump it. In other words, your body is trying to push a larger amount of fluid through the same-size tunnel. This puts extra pressure on both the heart and the blood vessels.
For about 25 percent of the population, who are described as "salt-sensitive," this happens immediately after eating a high-salt meal and is only temporary, according to a September 2015 report in Nutrition Reviews. For others, this leads to chronically high blood pressure. Luckily, there are natural ways to lower blood pressure that are pretty simple to incorporate.
Reduce Your Sodium Intake
Instead of trying to counteract too much sodium by drinking more water, it's better to limit the amount of sodium in your diet from the start. For healthy individuals, that means not more than 2,300 milligrams (1 teaspoon) per day. If you have high blood pressure, that number drops to 1,500 milligrams (3/4 teaspoon) daily. Yet the U.S. Food and Drug Administration notes that, on average, Americans are consuming around 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day.
The FDA adds that most of this sodium, or around 70 percent, is coming from processed and packaged foods, not the salt you add to a dish when cooking. A good way to lower your sodium intake fast is by ditching packaged food and opting for whole, fresh foods whenever possible. If you do indulge in packaged foods once in a while, choose low-sodium or salt-free versions and add a little salt yourself if you need to.
Some common high-sodium, packaged food offenders include:
- Frozen pizza
- Hot dogs
- Cold cuts and deli meats
- Processed cheese
- Canned soups
- Snack foods (like chips, microwave popcorn and pretzels)
- Other frozen foods
Lower Blood Pressure Fast
While lowering sodium intake helps, boosting how much potassium you eat is one of the most effective home remedies for high blood pressure. According to the American Heart Association, potassium helps diminish the effects of sodium by flushing it out of the body. Potassium actually works better than water — and the more potassium you get, the greater the effect. Potassium also helps by relaxing blood vessel walls, so they're more pliable and move with the blood better.
Yet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that Americans, as a whole, eat way too much sodium and not enough potassium. The current daily recommendation for potassium is 4,700 milligrams, but, on average, men are eating about 3,000 milligrams per day while women are falling even shorter at 2,300 milligrams daily. You can up your potassium by consuming plenty of potassium-rich foods, like:
- Sweet potatoes
- Oranges (and orange juice)
Another way to lower blood pressure fast is by drinking beet juice, which doesn't just provide a heap of potassium, but also contains natural compounds called nitrates that can lower your blood pressure, according to a review that was published in Biomolecules in December 2018.
Get Enough Water
The bottom line is that, even though there's no solid connection between drinking water and lower blood pressure or sodium flushing, it's still important for your health in other ways. Water helps your kidneys remove wastes and keeps your blood and blood vessels healthy. Water also plays a vital role in delivering nutrients to your cells.
Just don't overdo it. Although it's rare, drinking too much water can cause a condition called hyponatremia, where the concentration of sodium in your body fluids becomes so diluted that it puts your health at serious risk and can even lead to seizures, coma or death.
Although there's no solid rule on how much water you need each day, you should be drinking enough so that your urine is light yellow to colorless and free of strong odor. Instead of chugging water to try to flush out sodium, stick to your water needs and pay attention to the amount of sodium and potassium you're taking in.
Is This an Emergency?
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Potassium"
- Nutrition Reviews: "Determinants of Water and Sodium Intake and Output"
- University of California Berkeley: "Fluid and Electrolyte Balance"
- Merck Manual: "Water and Sodium Balance"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "6 Simple Tips to Reduce Your Blood Pressure"
- Biomolecules: "Dietary Nitrate From Beetroot Juice for Hypertension: A Systematic Review"
- American Heart Association: "A Primer on Potassium"
- National Kidney Foundation: "6 Tips To Be 'Water Wise' for Healthy Kidneys"
- National Kidney Foundation: "Hyponatremia"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "The Role of Potassium and Sodium In Your Diet"
- Food and Drug Administration: "Use the Nutrition Facts Label to Reduce Your Intake of Sodium in Your Diet"