- Make sure your blood pressure is under 140/90 mm Hg. If your systolic pressure (the top number) is over 140, ask your doctor what you can do to lower it.
- Take your high blood pressure medicine, if prescribed, every day. If you have questions, talk to your doctor.
- Aim for a healthy weight. If you are overweight or obese, carrying this extra weight increases your risk of high blood pressure. One way to determine if you need to lose weight is to find out your body mass index or BMI. If your BMI is above the healthy range (i.e., 25 or greater), or if your waist measurement is greater than 35 inches (women) or 40 inches (men) you probably have excess abdominal weight and you may benefit from weight loss especially if you have other risk factors. Talk to your doctor to see if you are at increased risk for high blood pressure and need to lose weight.
- Increase your physical activity. Do at least 30 minutes of moderate activity, such as walking, most days of the week. You can do 30 minutes in three 10-minute segments.
- Choose foods low in salt and sodium. Most Americans should consume no more than 2.4 grams (2,400 milligrams) of sodium a day. That equals 6 grams, about one teaspoon of table salt a day. For someone with high blood pressure, the doctor may advise less.
- Read nutrition labels. Almost all packaged foods contain sodium. Every time you prepare or eat a packaged food, know how much sodium is in one serving.
- Keep a sodium diary. You may be surprised at how much sodium you consume each day and the diary will help you decide which foods to decrease or eliminate.
- Use spices and herbs instead of salt to season the food you prepare at home.
- Eat more fruits, vegetables, grains, and low-fat dairy foods.
- If you consume alcohol at all, consume moderate amounts. For men, this is less than two 12 oz servings of beer, or two 5 oz glasses of wine, or two 1 1/2 oz servings of "hard" alcohol a day. Women or lighter weight people should have not more than a single serving of any one of these beverages in a given day.
For more, please visit the MedicineNet.com High Blood Pressure Center.Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/index.htm)
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Last Editorial Review: 8/22/2002