Cutting down on salt may help lower your blood pressure. And most Americans need to cut back, because they get more sodium than they should.
The American Heart Association recommends getting less than 2,500 milligrams (mg) of sodium each day, unless you have high blood pressure or if you are at risk (if you already have hypertension, have diabetes or kidney disease or are African American). That's less than a teaspoon from all your meals and snacks.
Start with these tips:
Break the habit of...
Although both numbers are felt to be important, systolic blood pressure is probably a better indicator of your risk for heart disease. For people under age 50, the diastolic number is a more important indicator of the risk for heart disease.
Making lifestyle adjustments is key to maintaining normal blood pressure. In fact, most doctors will suggest lifestyle changes before prescribing drugs. Lifestyle changes are also the recommended treatment for pre-hypertension, a condition in which blood pressure readings are higher than 120/80, but below 140/90.
Quit smoking. This is perhaps the most important step a person can take to improve health.
Exercise. Regular aerobic activity, such as brisk walking on most days of the week, can lower blood pressure. Regularity of exercise is as important as intensity.
Limit alcohol. Women should drink no more than one alcoholic drink per day; men should limit intake to two drinks or fewer. "One drink" means one 5-ounce glass of wine, one 12-ounce beer, or one 11/2-ounce shot glass of hard liquor.
Reduce stress. Emotional factors play a role in blood pressure. Studies show that relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, or even therapy to help you cope with stress may reduce blood pressure.