Does Aspirin Lower Blood Pressure?
About 50 percent of American adults struggle to manage their blood pressure, but many people want to avoid prescription drugs to treat their high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a serious health condition and thanks to the Coronavirus (COVID-19), it's become even more serious and is often referred to as the “silent killer” because it contributes significantly to many of the leading causes of death, including heart disease, heart attack, and stroke caused by blood flow. In addition to genetics, high blood pressure is strongly influenced by a variety of lifestyle factors, which means it is possible for some people to manage their condition without prescription drugs. Aspirin, a common medication that is known to reduce the risk of heart attack, has been studied to see whether or not it might be able to help lower blood pressure. Does aspirin use lower high blood pressure, and what other steps can you take to control your blood pressure without prescription drugs?
What is high blood pressure?
Blood pressure is a vital force that helps keep us alive, but when it gets too high or too low, it can cause serious medical problems. The heart pumps blood through the body in order to deliver oxygen to the tissues, organs, and extremities; blood pressure is the force at which blood presses into the walls of the blood vessels, including the veins, capillaries, and arteries. If blood pressure is too low, the blood will struggle to reach all of the different parts of the body and provide them with oxygen, but it can also be a problem if your blood pressure is too high. Lifestyle factors are known to influence blood pressure measurements.
According to the American Heart Association, High blood pressure occurs when the blood flowing through the blood vessels presses too hard against the walls of the blood vessels for an extended period of time. High blood pressure damages the walls of the blood vessels and the heart by forcing the heart to work harder to pump enough blood to reach different parts of the body. The heart and blood vessels work less efficiently, which strains them over time. Unfortunately, high blood pressure often becomes a vicious cycle because the condition causes microtears in the walls of the blood vessels, which causes scar tissue to build up and the blood vessels to narrow further. This in turn causes the blood pressure to rise even more. As your blood pressure gets higher and stays high for an extended period of time, your high risk of heart attack, stroke, and coronary artery disease increases.
What is aspirin?
Aspirin is an over the counter pain reliever that belongs to a class of drugs called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Aspirin helps lower fevers, reduce pain, and reduce inflammation. The medication is derived from salicylate, which comes from willow bark. It was first used to relieve pain around 400 BCE, when people relieved pain and fever by chewing on the bark. Aspirin as it is known today was invented over 100 years ago, and it is one of the most popular medications in the world. In addition to reducing pain and fever in higher doses, also used at low-dose aspirin to:
- Prevent blood clots from forming and reduce the risk of heart attack
- Prevent clot formation and myocardial infarction in patients with cardiovascular disease
- Prevent stroke
- Prevent colorectal cancer
Does aspirin lower high blood pressure?
With all of the implications of a daily dose of aspirin for heart health, it makes sense that scientists and researchers from the American College of Cardiology would begin to wonder if aspirin might be helpful in lowering blood pressure. When it comes to using aspirin to lower blood pressure, there are two main things to know:
- Aspirin can help to lower the blood pressure of patients with mild to moderate high blood pressure.
- Aspirin only lowers your blood pressure if taken at night.
A Spanish study indicates that even baby aspirin can be beneficial for treating prehypertension and mild to moderate hypertension, but only when taken at bedtime. Prehypertension is defined as blood pressure that measures just below 140/90; a normal blood pressure reading is 120/80. When aspirin was taken in the morning, it did not lower the blood pressure of patients. However, when taken at night, subjects taking aspirin saw their systolic blood pressure reading drop by 5.4 points and their diastolic pressure drop by 3.4 points, while those taking aspirin in the morning did not report any drop. Researchers aren’t clear on why taking aspirin at night yields lower blood pressure results while taking the medication in the morning does not, although they have suggested that it may be that medication is better absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract at night. Regardless, if you plan to add aspirin to your daily routine in hopes of lowering your blood pressure, you should plan to take the aspirin at night before you go to bed.
What other strategies can I use to lower my blood pressure?
In addition to taking aspirin each evening, there are many simple lifestyle changes you can make to start getting your blood pressure under control. Because blood pressure is impacted so much by lifestyle, your numbers are largely in your hands. Patients who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure or who believe they are experiencing symptoms of high blood pressure should consider incorporating some of these simple changes into your daily routine to lower risk factors and side effects:
- Substitute whole foods: Simple swaps that remove processed foods from your diet can make a big difference in your blood pressure. In addition to helping you lose weight, whole foods naturally contain less sodium than the processed and packaged foods at the grocery store. Work on adding lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into your diet through simple swaps, like substituting whole wheat pasta for white pasta or sirloin for your ribeye.
- Drink less alcohol: While drinking one or two alcoholic drinks occasionally has been shown to lower your blood pressure, drinking more than a couple of alcoholic beverages per day causes your blood pressure to rise. Women should stick to a maximum of one drink per day, while men should limit themselves to two drinks per day.
- Stop smoking: Because nicotine is a stimulant, smoking or other tobacco use causes your blood pressure to rise. Quitting smoking is an important step towards lowering your blood pressure.
- Increase your exercise: According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, people should spend at least 150 minutes per week exercising at a moderate exertion level or 75 minutes per week exercising vigorously. If you don’t meet these goals, it’s time to increase your exercise to lower your blood pressure.
- Reduce carbs and sugar: If you’re intimidated by the idea of completely overhauling your diet, get started by just cutting back on carbs and added sugar. You might skip your normal afternoon treat and replace it with an apple or carrot sticks, or swap your french fries for a sweet potato. As an added bonus, making these changes will likely help you to lose weight, which will also lower your blood pressure.
- Cut down on sodium: Sodium is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to dietary contributors to high blood pressure, so reducing your salt intake is an important step to get your blood pressure under control. The majority of our sodium intake comes from packaged foods rather than salt added at the table, so focus on whole foods and cut out the packaged stuff to lower your sodium intake.
- Lose weight: Losing even five to ten pounds can contribute to a noticeable decrease in your blood pressure, so if you’ve got some extra pounds to shed, now is the time. Obesity is one of the main contributing factors to high blood pressure.
- Try dark chocolate: There’s a lot of foods you’ll need to avoid while trying to lower your blood pressure, but dark chocolate isn’t one of them! Eating one to two squares of 60 to 70 percent cacao dark chocolate per day can help lower blood pressure.
- Get more rest: Getting enough sleep is important for everyone, but individuals with high blood pressure need to make sleep even more of a priority. Sleep deprivation is linked to high blood pressure, so make sure to practice good sleep hygiene and fit in at least eight hours of Zs each night.
- Lower your stress: Moments of stress can cause temporary spikes in your blood pressure, but constant stress contributes to high blood pressure levels over time. If you have high blood pressure, it’s important to reduce your obligations at work or home as much as possible in order to help your numbers drop.