High blood pressure (also called hypertension) increases your chances of having a heart attack, heart failure, stroke, kidney disease and other life-threatening conditions. Anyone can get it, and as you get older—and heavier—your odds increase.
Consider these facts from the National Institutes of Health:
- People over age 55 have a 90 percent chance of developing high blood pressure in their remaining lifetimes.
- People who are overweight or obese—or have diabetes—are more likely to develop high blood pressure.
- Treating high blood pressure can save your life. It can reduce your chances of having a heart attack by 27 percent, stroke by 38 percent and heart failure by 55 percent.
The good news is that high blood pressure can be controlled. Better yet, it can be prevented.
Here are 8 things you can do to prevent and control high blood pressure:
- Lose weight if you are overweight and maintain a healthy weight. Limit portion sizes, especially of high calorie foods, and try to eat only as many calories as you burn each day—or less if you want to lose weight.
- Eat heart-healthfully. Follow an eating plan that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and low fat dairy products and is moderate in total fat and low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
- Reduce salt and sodium intake. Read food labels to choose canned, processed, and convenience foods that are lower in sodium. Limit sodium intake to 2,400 mg, or about 1 teaspoon’s worth, of salt each day. Avoid fast foods that are high in salt and sodium.
- If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation. For men, that means a maximum of 2 drinks a day, for women, a maximum of 1 a day.
- Become more physically active. Work up to at least 30 minutes of a moderate-level activity, such as brisk walking or bicycling, each day. If you don’t have 30 minutes, try to find two 15-minute periods or even three 10-minute periods for physical activity.
- Quit smoking. Smoking increases your chances of developing a stroke, heart disease, peripheral arterial disease, and several forms of cancer.
- Know you numbers. Talk with your health care professional. Ask what your blood pressure numbers are and what they mean.
- Take medication as prescribed. If you need medication, make sure you understand what it’s for and how and when to take it, and then take it as your doctor recommends.