Emergency Treatment For High Blood Pressure At Home

If you’re one of the millions of people in the U.S. with high blood pressure, then you know how important it is to keep your levels under control. But what if you have a spike in blood pressure and can’t get to the doctor in time? 

Don’t worry. There are some things you can do at home to help lower your blood pressure until you can get to a professional. In this blog post, we’ll discuss four emergency treatments for high blood pressure that you can use at home.

Key Takeaways

  • A hypertensive emergency is when your blood pressure readings are 180/20 or greater and accompanied by dangerous symptoms like shortness of breath or chest pain.
  • Visit an ER immediately if you have a hypertensive emergency. If your blood pressure readings are just high without symptoms, there are at-home steps you can take to reduce them.
  • Drink a cup of tea, try to relax, and sit down – these are all steps you can take to reduce high blood pressure in a non-emergency situation.

What is High Blood Pressure?

According to the American Heart Association, high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is when your blood pressure is too high. 

This results from the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your arteries at a higher rate than normal. 

For most people, their blood pressure readings should be below 120/80 mm Hg. Elevated blood pressure is anything higher than that.

When taking your blood pressure readings, you’ll look at two numbers – the systolic pressure, which is the first or top number and measures how much pressure your blood exerts against your artery walls with each heartbeat, and your diastolic blood pressure, which is the second number on the bottom. 

This shows how much pressure is being exerted when your heart is resting between beats.

The Two Types of High Blood Pressure to Watch Out For

There are two main types of high blood pressure readings to watch out for – they can be categorized as “hypertensive urgency” and “hypertensive emergency.” Understanding the difference between the two will tell you whether you can safely try to reduce your blood pressure at home – or if you need to get to a doctor immediately. 

Type BP Readings Symptoms What to Do
Hypertensive Urgency 180/20 or greater No other symptoms besides high readings Wait five minutes and take a second reading
Hypertensive Emergency 180/20 or greater High BP readings along with any of the following symptoms: chest pain, back pain, change in vision, shortness of breath, etc. Call 911 or get to your doctor ASAP

What Happens During a Hypertensive Crisis?

A hypertensive crisis is when you have an elevated blood pressure reading along with symptoms like severe headache, chest pain, and so on (the warning signs listed in the column above).

This is dangerous because uncontrolled blood pressure can cause long term problems such as:

  • Eclampsia
  • Stroke
  • Memory loss
  • Heart attack
  • Eye and kidney damage (including kidney failure)
  • Aortic dissection
  • Pulmonary edema 

When to Call for Emergency Medical Help

If you’ve noticed a high blood pressure reading and have any symptoms at all (besides just a high reading), it’s important that you call for emergency care immediately.

The only time you should attempt these medical emergency treatments for high blood pressure at home is when you have the high reading alone – and nothing else. 

Causes and Symptoms of Sudden High Blood Pressure

Suddenly high blood pressure can be caused by various factors.

One of these is known as white coat hypertension, which is when your blood pressure suddenly spikes the minute you walk into a doctor’s office. Though inconvenient, because it is here where you are most likely to have your readings taken, it is mostly harmless and simply caused by the anxiety you experience in this setting.

Other causes include stress, too much salt in the diet, a lack of physical activity, and so on. 

Your symptoms might include:

  • Pain in the chest
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Problems with vision
  • Heart palpitations
  • A pounding in the neck and ears
  • Severe headache 

Many of these symptoms are similar to what you might experience if you were having a heart attack. Therefore, if you just happen to notice a higher than average blood pressure reading with no symptoms, you don’t need to panic. However, if you have any of these symptoms along with a higher blood pressure reading, get to a hospital. 

How to Lower High Blood Pressure Immediately at Home

If you’ve noticed that your blood pressure readings are abnormally high, obviously, your best choice is to call a doctor immediately. However, depending on whether you are showing symptoms and how you feel, visiting the emergency room might not always be the best option.

There are a few ways you can try to lower your blood pressure immediately at home. However, if these don’t work right away, you’ll want to visit a doctor. Trying to rapidly lower your blood pressure might not always be a great idea – it’s best to keep your readings stable and at a normal level. 

But if you’re panicking over your high blood pressure readings, give these tactics a try. 

Take a Second Reading 

A higher-than-normal blood pressure reading could be cause for alarm – or it could just be a blip or error. Take your reading again. See what the results say – then keep reading. 

Stay Calm

Stay calm if you’ve noticed a high blood pressure reading. Being calm can reduce your blood pressure, so take a few moments to focus on your breathing. Sit down and take a few deep breaths. 

Take Blood Pressure Medication

If you’ve already been prescribed blood pressure medication, take it. 

Have a Cup of Tea 

There are several types of tea that can help reduce your blood pressure because they make you feel calmer. Hibiscus and chamomile tea are good options. Avoid caffeine (such as black tea) as it will cause your blood pressure to spike.

If tea isn’t your thing, don’t worry – even sipping a glass of cool water can help.

Eat a Piece of Dark Chocolate 

Dark chocolate releases endorphins – the chemicals in your brain that make you feel good! Have a piece of dark chocolate to help you relax, but don’t overdo it – the sugar could cause another spike in your blood pressure. 

Controlling Blood Pressure: Preventative Tips

While nobody likes having to deal with high blood pressure, there are steps you can follow in the future to prevent emergency-level high blood pressure readings at home. 

Lose Weight

One of the best ways that patients can lower blood pressure is to lose weight. Being overweight or obese is one of the biggest risk factors for high blood pressure, so weight loss can make a big difference. 

Exercise Regularly

Another one of the most effective lifestyle changes you can make to lower your blood pressure is to exercise regularly. Even as little as 30 minutes a day of light exercise, like walking, can make a big difference. 

Consume a Healthy Diet

Studies show that consuming a healthy diet is one of the best things you can do to keep a normal blood pressure. Limit sodium and aim to eat as many fruits and vegetables as possible. 

There’s some evidence that eating more potassium may help reduce your blood pressure, too. That’s because it counteracts the effects of sodium on your blood vessels. Consider adding more foods like beans, baked potatoes, bananas, and spinach to your diet.

Limit Alcohol and Caffeine

Limit alcohol (no more than two drinks a day for men and one for women) and caffeine. Both of these produce side effects that can lead to high blood pressure. 

Quit Smoking

If you smoke, stop immediately. This is one of the most common variables when it comes to an elevated risk of heart disease. 

Reduce Stress Levels

Some stress is unavoidable – but you should do your best to avoid chronic stress that can raise your blood pressure and lead to unhealthy habits, like substance abuse or overeating.

Make the time for activities that you enjoy (and that naturally reduce your stress levels), such as:

  • Meditating
  • Painting
  • Spending time with family and friends
  • Gardening 

Monitor Your Blood Pressure at Home

Take your blood pressure readings at home as often as you can, ideally on a daily basis. This will help you address any issues that may require further medical care – before they become dangerous.

Visit Your Doctor

Visit your healthcare provider on a regular basis. This is important for everyone, but especially for individuals with high blood pressure. They’ll be able to help you monitor your blood pressure and other vital signs, while also being able to suggest changes (like medication) that can make a difference. 

Get Help 

While it’s best to get your medical advice and formal medical intervention from a health care provider, the good news is that this isn’t the only person you can turn to in order to reduce your risk of high blood pressure and acute heart failure.

You can also rely on your family and friends! Having a strong support network is a key part of living a healthy lifestyle. These people can help to reduce stress and make it easier for you to stay healthy – perhaps without any blood pressure medicines at all!

The Bottom Line

If you are among the nearly 50% of American adults with high blood pressure, according to the CDC, knowing how to lower it quickly is important. While emergency medical treatment for high blood pressure at a hospital is always best, there are some steps you can take at home to help bring your numbers down. 

Consider these tips and be sure to consult with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.

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