What Dietary Changes Can Help Lower Blood Pressure?

blood pressure cuff

Blood pressure is the pressure exerted by blood flow on artery walls. Blood pressure can change from minute to minute with changes in posture, exercise or sleep. 

In 2017 the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology introduced new comprehensive blood pressure guidelines for the first time since 2003. The new guidelines lower the definition of high blood pressure to allow for earlier intervention and prevent complications that can occur at lower blood pressure levels. 1

  • Normal: Less than 120/80 mm Hg;
  • Elevated: Systolic between 120-129 and diastolic less than 80;
  • Stage 1: Systolic between 130-139 or diastolic between 80-89;
  • Stage 2: Systolic at least 140 or diastolic at least 90 mm Hg;
  • Hypertensive crisis: Systolic over 180 and/or diastolic over 120, with patients needing prompt changes in medication if there are no other indications of problems, or immediate hospitalization if there are signs of organ damage.

Blood Pressure should be checked at every routine health care provider visit. Most people with diabetes and high blood pressure should be treated to a systolic blood pressure goal of <140 mmHg and a diastolic blood pressure goal of < 90 mmHg. Lower blood pressure target, such as 130/80 mmHg, may be appropriate for some individuals. Discuss your individual blood pressure goals with your healthcare provider. 2

Blood pressure is affected by multiple dietary factors. Many studies have shown that specific dietary changes can have powerful and beneficial effects on blood pressure.

A specific eating plan that may be prescribed to reduce high blood pressure is the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. The DASH diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, and low fat dairy foods, and low in saturated and total fat. It also is low in cholesterol, high in dietary fiber, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, and moderately high in protein. This diet has been proven to lower blood pressure and prevent hypertension in some individuals. The DASH diet suggests:

  • 7-8 daily servings from the grains and grain products group (Whole wheat products are encouraged.
  • 4-5 daily servings from the vegetables group.
  • 4-5 daily servings from the fruit group.
  • 2-3 daily servings of low fat or non-fat dairy products.
  • 2 or less daily servings from the meat, poultry, and fish group.
  • 4-5 servings of nuts, seeds, or legumes every week.


  1. Journal of the American College of Cardiology vol. 71, no. 19, 2018 ª 2018 by the American College of Cardiology Foundation and the American Heart Association, Inc.
  2. Diabetes Care.  American Diabetes Association Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes-2018 January 01 2018; volume 41 issue Supplement 1.