Making an effort to prevent high blood pressure can reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke, and other serious illnesses. If you are at risk for hypertension, take these steps to help prevent it.
By Krisha McCoy
Medically Reviewed by Pat F. Bass, III, MD, MPH
Bottom of FormHigh blood pressure which is also called hypertension, increases your risk of developing many serious health problems, including heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. It is estimated that nearly one out of every three Americans has high blood pressure.
While you can’t always control whether you get high blood pressure, there are healthy lifestyle habits you can develop to help prevent hypertension and reduce your risk of high blood pressure-related health problems in the future
Hypertension Prevention Factors You Can Control
Your age, along with 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 Gbenga Ogedegbe, MD, MPH, a clinical hypertension specialist, director of the Center for Healthful Behavior Change, and associate professor of medicine for the division of general internal medicine at New York University School of Medicine in New York City.
To avoid a hypertension diagnosis, make these healthy lifestyle choices:
- Maintain a healthy weight. When 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, losing as little as 10 pounds can help prevent high blood pressure. Talk with your doctor about the best weight for you.
- Eat a balanced diet. Eating healthful foods can help keep your blood pressure under control. Get plenty of fruits and vegetables, especially those rich in potassium, and limit your intake of excess calories, fat, and sugar. Consider following the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH, diet, which has been shown to help manage blood pressure.
- Cut back on salt. For many people, eating 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 extra salt to your meals. “I tell people to stay away from salt shakers,” adds Ogedegbe
- Exercise regularly. Get 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. Moderate exercise for about 30 minutes three times a week is a good start.
- Limit the alcohol. Drinking 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.
- Monitor your blood pressure. Make 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. If your doctor determines that you have prehypertension — blood pressure in the range of 120-139/80-89 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) that puts you at increased risk of developing hypertension — your doctor may recommend extra steps as a safeguard.
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.