The Dangers of Prehypertension
It's Not High Blood Pressure, Yet, but You Still Need to Address It
Prehypertension, like hypertension, doesn't show signs or symptoms. Many people don't know they have it, and doctors often overlook it, Ovbiagele says.
How do you know if you have it? The only way to know is to check your blood pressure, Stein says. In otherwise healthy people, elevated systolic and/or diastolic blood pressure on two separate occasions -- taken two or three days apart -- is enough to be diagnosed with high blood pressure. You can take your blood pressure at home with a blood pressure monitor, or use the machine at your local pharmacy or grocery store, if it has one.
If it's consistently within the prehypertension range, tell your doctor so that you can get it under control before it becomes hypertension.
Taking Charge of Your Blood Pressure
The good news is, you can slow the progression to hypertension. Here's what experts recommend:
- Eat healthfully. Consider following the DASH diet, which focuses on eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and less saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol. It also restricts sodium, which can raise blood pressure, and emphasizes foods rich in calcium, potassium, and magnesium, minerals that help lower blood pressure.
- Watch the salt. Although a recent study showed that lowering your salt intake may raise cholesterol and triglycerides, most experts still recommend cutting back on salt. Be on the lookout for sodium in canned, prepared, and processed foods. Avoid sprinkling too much salt on foods. The American Heart Association recommends limiting your intake to 1,500 mg a day.
- Move more. Get at least 30 minutes of moderate activity every day, most days of the week.
- Get to a healthy weight. Extra pounds make prehypertension more likely. Physical activity and healthy eating can help you shed extra weight.
- Limit alcohol. Try to drink no more than two drinks a day if you're a man or no more than one if you're a woman. If you don't drink, don't start.
- Curb stress. It's unclear whether chronic stress, by itself, can raise your blood pressure in the long run. But it can make you more likely to overeat and to skip exercise, Stein says. So try to change your circumstances, or at least how you deal with them, by practicing stress reduction techniques such as meditation.
- Check your blood pressure. If you can, buy a home monitor, and take your blood pressure twice day: once in the morning and once at night, Stein says. "One very high reading is concerning, but one alone isn't enough," he says. "You want to see how it changes over time."