You can take steps to prevent high blood pressure by adopting a healthy lifestyle. These steps include maintaining a healthy weight; being physically active; following a healthy eating plan, that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and lowfat dairy foods; choosing and preparing foods with less salt and sodium; and, if you drink alcoholic beverages, drinking in moderation. In this section you will learn more about healthy lifestyle habits for preventing and controlling high blood pressure.
Research has shown that following a healthy eating plan can both reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure and lower an already elevated blood pressure.
For an overall eating plan, consider the DASH eating plan. “DASH” stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension,” a clinical study that tested the effects of nutrients in food on blood pressure. Study results indicated that elevated blood pressures were reduced by an eating plan that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods and is low in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol. The DASH eating plan includes whole grains, poultry, fish, and nuts and has reduced amounts of fats, red meats, sweets, and sugared beverages.
A second clinical study, called “DASH-Sodium,” looked at the effect of a reduced dietary sodium intake on blood pressure as people followed either the DASH eating plan or a typical American diet. Results showed that reducing dietary sodium lowered blood pressure for both the DASH eating plan and the typical American diet. The biggest blood pressure-lowering benefits were for those eating the DASH eating plan at the lowest sodium level (1,500 milligrams per day).
The DASH-Sodium study shows the importance of lowering sodium intake whatever your diet. But for a true winning combination, follow the DASH eating plan and lower your intake of salt and sodium.
Maintaining a Healthy Weight
Being overweight increases your risk of developing high blood pressure. In fact, blood pressure rises as body weight increases. Losing even 10 pounds can lower blood pressure — and it has the greatest effect for those who are overweight and already have hypertension.
Being overweight or obese are also risk factors for heart disease. They increase your chance for developing high blood cholesterol and diabetes — two more major risk factors for heart disease.
Being physically active is one of the most important steps you can take to prevent or control high blood pressure. It also helps reduce your risk of heart disease. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to become physically active.
Limit Alcohol Intake
Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure. It also can harm the liver, brain, and heart. Alcoholic drinks also contain calories, which matter if you are trying to lose weight. If you drink alcoholic beverages, have only a moderate amount — one drink a day for women; two drinks a day for men.
What counts as a drink?
12 ounces of beer (regular or light, 150 calories), or
5 ounces of wine (100 calories), or
1 one-half ounces of 80-proof whiskey (100 calories).
Smoking injures blood vessel walls and speeds up the process of hardening of the arteries. This applies even to filtered cigarettes. So even though it does not cause high blood pressure, smoking is bad for anyone, especially those with high blood pressure. If you smoke, quit. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. Once you quit, your risk of having a heart attack is reduced after the first year. So you have a lot to gain by quitting.