The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers these 8 tips to help you prevent high blood pressure, or reduce your blood pressure if its already a problem.
- Are you overweight? Lose weight.
Maintaining a healthy weight (see your doctor about this) will help prevent high blood pressure.
Getting back to a healthy weight is not as hard as it sounds. You can start by limiting the portion size of your meals and snacks, and cut way back on high calorie foods.
If you eat as many calories as you burn each day, youll maintain your weight. Eating fewer calories than you burn will help you lose weight. And losing weight will help lower your blood pressure.
- When you plan meals, think of your heart.
Choose a diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables. Keep total fat low and avoid foods that are high in saturated fats and cholesterol.
Having a healthy heart will help prevent blood pressure.
- Eat less salt and sodium.
Salt and sodium can increase blood pressure, so its important to read food labels. The U.S. guidelines suggest limiting sodium intake to no more than 2,400 mg, or about 1 teaspoon of salt each day.
If you eat canned, processed, and convenience foods, buy the brands that are lower in sodium.
If you salt your food at the table, try using less, or none. It may take a little while to get used to the new flavors, but you may find that food tastes better when you use less salt.
Fast food can contain a lot of sodium, so if you eat fast food choose items that are lower in salt and sodium. Reducing your salt intake will help to prevent high blood pressure.
- If you drink alcohol, practice moderation.
The U.S. guidelines recommend that men have no more than 2 drinks per day, and women have no more than one alcoholic beverage per day.
- Increase your physical activity.
Exercise is a key factor in preventing high blood pressure.
If you get very little exercise now, start slowly and work your way up to at least 30 minutes of a moderate-level activity, such as brisk walking or bicycling, each day. If time is a factor, youll still benefit by breaking the 30 minute daily exercise periods into 10 or 15 minute sessions.
- Stop smoking.
Research shows that smoking increases your chances of developing a heart disease, stroke, stroke, peripheral arterial disease, and several forms of cancer.
- Talk with your doctor or health care professional.
Learn what your blood pressure reading means to your health, and if medication is recommended for you to treat or prevent high blood pressure.
- If your doctor prescribes medication, take it.
Its important to understand:
- what your blood pressure medication is expected to do for you
- how to take your medication, and when
- if your blood pressure medication has any side effects
- if the blood pressure medication is safe to take with any other prescriptions or vitamins you are already taking
If you have high blood pressure and treatment is prescribed, don't be afraid to ask questions or get another medical opinion. Once you understand why youre taking the medication, follow the recommended dose.
But the best way to treat high blood pressure is to prevent high blood pressure from becoming a problem. These 8 tips, plus advice from your health care provider, can help you keep your blood pressure at a healthy level. If you would like more information on blood pressure, how it's measured and what the measurements mean, see Blood Pressure 101: Why Are Those Numbers Important?.
Note: The U.S. government offers Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005, which provides detailed information on a recommended diet program to help you get healthy and stay healthy.