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Preventing Hypertension

Reducing Your Risk

To help reduce your risk of developing hypertension , follow these guidelines:

  • If you are overweight, lose weight.
  • Avoid heavy alcohol use.
  • If you smoke, quit.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Manage stress.
  • Monitor use of pain relievers.
  • Consider taking folic acid.

If You Are Overweight, Lose Weight

Losing as little as 10 pounds can help decrease your heart’s workload and lower your blood pressure. Follow the dietary and exercise plans recommended by your doctor. To lose weight, consume fewer calories than you expend. To maintain a healthy weight, balance the number of calories you consume with the number you expend. Try to keep your body mass index (BMI) below 25.

Avoid Heavy Alcohol Use

Drinking too much alcohol increases blood pressure and can lead to other heart problems. Moderate alcohol intake, however, is not associated with high blood pressure. Moderate alcohol intake is two drinks or fewer per day for men and one drink or fewer per day for women. Talk to your doctor if you need help reducing your alcohol intake, or quitting drinking entirely.

If You Smoke, Quit

Smoking can increase the amount of fatty material that collects in your arteries and may contribute to elevated blood pressure readings.

Eat a Heart Healthy Diet

A diet low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol, while rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables will help lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and body weight—all of which leads to a healthier heart. Follow the meal plan recommended by your doctor, or ask for a referral to a registered dietitian or clinical nutritionist. See the Heart-Healthy Diet article for more information and helpful tips.

A clinical study, called Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), has found that certain healthful eating patterns can reduce blood pressure. This is called the DASH diet. Findings from the second phase of the DASH study indicate that cutting salt intake is another effective way to lower blood pressure. See the DASH Diet article for more information and tips.

Exercise Regularly

Choose exercises you enjoy and will make a regular part of your day. Strive to maintain an exercise program that keeps you fit and at a healthful weight. For many people, this includes walking or participating in another aerobic activity for 30 minutes per day. Exercise also can help you manage stress. Check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.

Manage Stress

Although stress does not cause hypertension, hormones released by your body when you are under stress can increase your blood pressure. Take time out to relax, exercise, and practice relaxation techniques.

Monitor Use of Pain Relievers

Taking pain relievers (eg, ibuprofen ) more often than once per week has been linked to the development of high blood pressure in women. If possible, limiting the use of these medicines to once per week may be something to consider if you are at risk of high blood pressure.

Consider Taking Folic Acid

Women who take folic acid supplements daily may reduce their risk of high blood blood pressure. If you think you may not be getting enough folic acid (a B vitamin) in your diet, consider taking a daily 400 mcg supplement.

References

References:

American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.americanheart.org .

Facts about folic acid. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/folicacid/about.html . Updated March 2009. Accessed September 2, 2009.

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/ .

9/2/2009 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : Forman J, Stampfer M, Curhan G. Diet and lifestyle risk factors associated with incident hypertension in women. JAMA.2009;302(4):401-411.

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