Be Proactive Against High Blood Pressure

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on April 30, 2022
3 min read

If your blood pressure is healthy, that’s great! You’re in a good spot to prevent a heart attack, stroke, and other major problems down the road. Your next goal is to keep it that way.  

Here are the most important ways to keep your blood pressure on track for good.

Steady the scale. Your blood pressure rises as you put on extra pounds, so it’s key to keep your weight in a good range. If you’re overweight, losing as little as 10 pounds can help bring your numbers down or prevent high blood pressure.

No matter what you weigh, focus on eating a nutritious, balanced diet, getting regular exercise, and plenty of sleep.

Fit in fitness. Along with weight control, exercise has another plus: It strengthens your heart and lowers your blood pressure. Even if your blood pressure is already normal, exercising will help keep it healthy as you get older.

It doesn’t take much to reap the benefits: Just 2.5 hours of moderate exercise that gets your heart pumping (like brisk walking) each week is a good starting goal. If your workouts are more intense (like jogging or swimming laps), then just an hour and 15 minutes per week can be enough.

The more active you are, the better. Even 10 minutes of activity at a time will help.

Cut down on salt. It shows up in a lot of unexpected places. Even if you avoid sprinkling extra on your meals, you might still get a lot of it in processed foods like frozen dinners, canned soups, deli meats, breads, and even sweet things like cookies. Since sodium naturally raises blood pressure, it’s a good idea to limit it.

Some experts recommend getting less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium (just 1 teaspoon of salt) per day. If you’re concerned about your numbers, the American Heart Association recommends that ideally, you keep it under 1,500 milligrams a day, since that’s the amount linked with the biggest blood pressure benefit. Americans average about 3,400 milligrams a day, so chances are, there’s room to lower that.

Eat more fresh fruit and vegetables. You’ll get a lot of important vitamins and minerals that help prevent heart disease, cancer, and other illnesses. Aim to fill at least half your plate with vegetables or fruits at every meal. That will help you get to the recommended daily goal of at least four to five servings.

Back off of booze. Regular heavy drinking can cause a long-term blood pressure rise. Even having three drinks in one sitting can cause a temporary bump. So if you choose to drink, keep it moderate.

What counts as one drink depends on what you’re sipping: a 12-ounce beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, and a 1.5-ounce serving of a distilled 80-proof liquor all count as a single serving of alcohol. If you’re a man under age 65, limit yourself to two drinks a day. Older men should have one a day or less. If you’re a woman of any age, stick with one drink a day to keep your blood pressure stable. Bonus: Drinking within healthy limits will also help you keep your weight down since alcohol packs extra calories.

Smoker? Quit now. While smoking and chewing tobacco can raise your blood pressure for a short time, the chemicals in both can slowly damage your arteries so that they get narrower, forcing your blood pressure to go up for the long term. Secondhand smoke can do the same thing, so encourage the smokers around you to quit for their health and yours.