The ONE organ responsible for high blood pressure.
The Primary Prevention of Hypertension
Eat a heart-healthy diet. Try the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, poultry, fish and low-fat dairy foods. Get plenty of potassium, which can help prevent and control high blood pressure. Eat less saturated fat and trans fat.
Fortunately, high blood pressure is treatable and preventable. To lower your risk, get your blood pressure checked regularly and take action to control your blood pressure if it is high.
Hypertension Prevention Factors You Can ControlYour age, a family history of hypertension, and ethnicity are among the hypertension risk factors that are out of your control. When it comes to preventing high blood pressure, the idea is to focus on the risk factors that you can change. "We can't do anything about our age, but we can do something about our lifestyle," says Olugbenga Ogedegbe, MD, MPH, a clinical hypertension specialist, the director of the Center for Healthful Behavior Change, and a professor in the department of Population Health at NYU Grossman School of Medicine in New York City. To avoid a hypertension diagnosis, make these healthy lifestyle choices.
Maintain a healthy weightWhen it comes to hypertension prevention, your weight is crucial, says Dr. Ogedegbe. People who are overweight should try to lose weight, and people of normal weight should avoid adding on any pounds. If you are carrying extra weight — or have a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or higher — losing as little as 10 pounds can help prevent high blood pressure, according to the AHA.
Eat a balanced dietEating healthful foods can help keep your blood pressure under control. Get plenty of fruits and vegetables, and limit your intake of saturated fat, trans fat, and sugar. Consider following the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH, diet, which has been shown to help manage blood pressure, according to the AHA. The eating plan maximizes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet. Foods to limit include red meat, sodium, and sweets.
Cut back on saltFor many people, a low-sodium diet can help keep blood pressure normal. "The higher the sodium intake, the higher the blood pressure," says Ogedegbe. You can cut back on your total salt intake by avoiding high-sodium packaged and processed foods and not adding salt to your meals. "I tell people to stay away from salt shakers," adds Ogedegbe. A study published in 2017 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology of more than 400 adults with prehypertension found that the combination of reduced sodium intake and the DASH diet substantially lowered systolic blood pressure.
Exercise regularlyGet moving to prevent hypertension. "Physical activity is crucial," says Ogedegbe. The more exercise you get, the better, but even a little bit can help control blood pressure. The AHA recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. This should also be supplemented with muscle strengthening activity, such as free weights or resistance training, two days per week.
Limit alcoholDrinking too much alcohol can lead to high blood pressure. For women, that means no more than one drink a day, and for men, no more than two, according to the AHA.
Manage stressWhile the link between stress and blood pressure is still being studied, stress is known to contribute to other important risk factors for hypertension, including unhealthy eating and alcohol intake, notes the AHA. Meditation may help you manage both stress and high blood pressure, according to the AHA.
Monitor your blood pressureMake sure that you have your blood pressure measured regularly, either at your doctor's office or at home. High blood pressure often occurs with no symptoms, so only blood pressure readings will tell you if your blood pressure is on the rise, notes the AHA. If your blood pressure is below 120/80 mmHg, the AHA advises that you check it at least once every two years, starting at age 20. If your blood pressure is higher, you may have to get it checked more often. Take a look at your lifestyle habits and decide where you can make changes to help prevent hypertension. Conquer small goals, such as snacking on fruits and vegetables instead of junk food, and continue to practice these good habits until they are a part of your daily routine.
Adopting these lifestyle changes can help prevent high blood pressure if your blood pressure is currently under control or lead to lower blood pressure if your numbers are already elevated.