Skip to content

Hypertension/High Blood Pressure Health Center

Heart-Healthy Diet and Exercise

Font Size
A
A
A

Your doctor says you need to make some changes in your life, especially with your diet and exercise.

Perhaps you're wondering: Will it really make a difference? Do you really need to make those changes if you're taking medicine for your heart?

Recommended Related to Hypertension

Atherosclerosis and High Blood Pressure

About one in three adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure. More than 90% of adults who survive into their 80s will develop elevated blood pressure -- also called hypertension -- and about 50% of people will have it by age 60. Although high blood pressure is common, it's not harmless. High blood pressure is a major cause of atherosclerosis, the artery-clogging process that leads to heart attacks and strokes. Blood pressure higher than 140/90 is seen in: 69% of people who have their first...

Read the Atherosclerosis and High Blood Pressure article > >

The answer is yes. Your lifestyle does matter -- a lot.

Try DASH or TLC

Your doctor, or a dietitian, should have given you guidelines for your diet. They may have mentioned DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), which is about lowering blood pressure, or TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes), which focuses on lowering your cholesterol levels.

On either plan, you'll:

  • Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole-grain foods, poultry, fish, and low-fat dairy products.
  • Eat less total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol.
  • Limit the amount of red meat, sweets, and sweetened beverages you eat.

Another cornerstone is cutting back on salt.

Lowering the amount of salt you eat can help lower the amount of fluid your body holds onto. This lowers your blood pressure and makes it easier for your heart to do its work. Getting no more than 1,500 milligrams per day (about a quarter-teaspoon of table salt) helps the most.

Try these tips:

  • Read labels. Look for "salt," "sodium," "sea salt," and "kosher salt."
  • Rinse salty canned food such as tuna before using it.
  • Substitute herbs and spices for sodium and salt when cooking.
  • Avoid instant or flavored side dishes, which usually have a lot of added sodium. Instead, try cooking plain rice, pasta, or grains without adding salt. You can add other flavorings or a bit of salt when you serve them.
  • Look for "low sodium" on food labels.

Today on WebMD

blood pressure
Symptoms, causes, and more.
headache
Learn the causes.
 
Compressed heart
5 habits to change.
Mature man floating in pool, goggles on head
Exercises that help.
 
heart healthy living
ARTICLE
Erectile Dysfunction Slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 
Bernstein Hypertension Affects Cardiac Risk
VIDEO
Compressed heart
Article
 
Heart Disease Overview Slideshow
SLIDESHOW
thumbnail for lowering choloesterol slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 
Heart Foods Slideshow
SLIDESHOW
Low Blood Pressure
VIDEO
 

WebMD Special Sections