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How to Prevent High Blood Pressure

A couple walking.

Increases in blood pressure increases your risk for heart disease. People at any age can take steps each day to keep blood pressure levels normal.


Lifestyle

  • Eat a healthy diet. Eating healthfully can help keep your blood pressure down. Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, which provide nutrients such as potassium and fiber. Also, eat foods that are low in saturated fat and cholesterol.

    Avoid sodium by limiting the amount of salt you add to your food. Be aware that many processed foods and restaurant meals are high in sodium.

    Studies1 have shown that people who eat a healthy diet can lower their blood pressure. For more information on healthy diet and nutrition, see CDC's Nutrition and Physical Activity Program Web site.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight can raise your blood pressure. Losing weight can help you lower your blood pressure.

    To find out whether your weight is healthy, doctors often calculate a number called the body mass index (BMI). Doctors sometimes also use waist and hip measurements to measure a person’s excess body fat.

    If you know your weight and height, you can compute your BMI at CDC’s Assessing Your Weight Web site.
  • Be physically active. Physical activity can help lower blood pressure. The Surgeon General recommends adults engage in moderate-intensity exercise for 2 hours and 30 minutes every week.

For more information, see the CDC's Nutrition and Physical Activity Program Web site.

For more information, see CDC's Physical Activity Web site.

  • Don't smoke. Smoking injures blood vessels and speeds up the hardening of the arteries. Further, smoking is a major risk for heart disease and stroke.

    If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease and stroke. Your doctor can suggest programs to help you quit.

    For more information about tobacco use and quitting, see CDC's Smoking and Tobacco Use Web site.

  • Limit alcohol use. Drinking too much alcohol is associated with high blood pressure.

    If you drink alcohol, you should do so in moderation—no more than one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men.

    More information on alcohol can be found at the CDC's Alcohol and Public Health Web site.


    What You Can Do

    • Check your blood pressure. Getting your blood pressure checked is important because high blood pressure often has no symptoms.

      Your doctor can measure your blood pressure, or you can use a machine available at many pharmacies. You can also use a home monitoring device to measure your blood pressure.

      Blood pressure is written as two numbers. The first (systolic) number represents the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats. The second (diastolic) number represents the pressure in your vessels when your heart rests between beats.

    Blood Pressure Levels
    Normal
    Systolic: less than 120 mmHg
    Diastolic: less than 80 mmHg
    At risk (prehypertension)
    Systolic: 120–139 mmHg
    Diastolic: 80–89 mmHg
    High
    Systolic: 140 mmHg or higher
    Diastolic: 90 mmHg or higher

    Prevent or Treat Your Medical Conditions

    • Prevent and manage diabetes. You can reduce your risk of diabetes by eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and being physically active.

      About 60% of people who have diabetes also have high blood pressure.2 If you have diabetes, you can lower your risk for high blood pressure by following the healthy guidelines listed here.

      For more information about diabetes, see CDC's Diabetes Public Health Resource Web site.

    • Treat high blood pressure. If you already have high blood pressure, your doctor may prescribe medications in addition to lifestyle changes.

      All drugs may have side effects, so talk with your doctor on a regular basis. As your blood pressure improves, your doctor will want to monitor it often.

      Lifestyle changes are just as important as taking medications.


    References

    1. NIH: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH)
    2. NIH: The Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure [PDF-223K] Bethesda, MD: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; 2003.

 
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