Keys to Controlling Your Blood Pressure

Here are the main steps you can take to prevent or reduce high blood pressure.

  • Eat a balanced diet that is low in sodium.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Avoid unhealthy habits, such as smoking and drinking too much alcohol.
  • Lose any excess weight.
  • Take medicine, if your doctor prescribes it.
  • Have your blood pressure checked as often as your doctor recommends.

High blood pressure affects your heart and blood vessels in several ways:

  • It damages blood vessels throughout your body. This speeds up hardening of the arteries, known as atherosclerosis.
  • It causes your heart to work harder.
  • It increases your risk for heart attack, heart failure, stroke, and kidney disease.

Other risk factors for coronary heart disease include being overweight and smoking. If you have high blood pressure along with any of these, your risk of a heart attack increases several times.

What Can I Do About My Blood Pressure?

If your blood pressure is high, lowering it can reduce your risk for heart disease. In fact, for each one-point drop in diastolic blood pressure, your risk for heart disease drops by 2% to 3%. Controlling your blood pressure is more important if you already have heart disease. While you can't control certain causes of high blood pressure, such as increasing age or heredity, you can control others. For instance, you can make lifestyle changes. Keep reading to learn how to make these changes to help lower your blood pressure:

  • eating less salt
  • eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, also see How much can I eat on the DASH Diet?
  • getting more daily exercise
  • losing excess weight
  • avoiding smoking
  • not drinking too much alcohol

If these measures aren't enough, your doctor will prescribe medicines to help lower your blood pressure. Ask your doctor what you need to do.