Hypertension Prevention

You can take steps to prevent hypertension at any age, although the earlier you start, the better. If you have healthy blood pressure levels or even you’ve been diagnosed with pre-hypertension, taking steps to prevent hypertension now can make all the difference. Additionally, many of these preventative measures–like maintaining a balanced diet–have numerous other health benefits.

One of the most common causes of hypertension is unhealthy lifestyle choices, and often, making the right choices can not only help lower your blood pressure, but keep your weight in check and keep your heart healthy.

Step #1: Control Your Weight

Being overweight or obese are common hypertension causes. In general, as weight increases, so does blood pressure. Those with hypertension can often lower their blood pressure if they lose as little as ten pounds. Keeping your weight in check is also a necessary step in heart disease prevention.

Step #2: Adopt (and Stick to!) an Exercise Plan

Physical activity has long been recommended for heart disease prevention, and staying active is also a sound prevention of hypertension strategy. Not only does exercise strengthen the heart and control blood pressure, it also helps maintain a healthy weight.

If you already have heart disease, hypertension, or some other condition, check with your doctor before starting any physical exercise program.

Step #3: Limit Your Salt Intake

Sodium, including table salt, is everywhere in the modern Western diet. People only need a teaspoon of sodium a day, but often consume two or three times that amount. Too much sodium increases blood pressure, so a low sodium diet is important for hypertension prevention.

Sodium doesn’t just come in a shaker, though–it often hides in pre-packaged foods, particularly snack foods and canned goods. Check the sodium content of the foods you’re eating, and keep your sodium levels in check (the NIH’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend an intake of less than 2300 mg of sodium per day).

Step #4: Maintain a Healthy Diet

Eating a healthy diet high in fruit, vegetables and grains is as important for the prevention of hypertension as it is for heart disease prevention. A healthy diet should also limit sodium and fat consumption.

Healthy eating has a host of health benefits, including making it easier to maintain a healthy weight. If you’re trying to prevent hypertension, the first place to start is to review your eating habits.

Step #5: Quit Smoking, Once and For All!

To be frank, the health risks and benefits associated with smoking are so well known that it’s almost a waste listing quitting smoking as a preventative health tactic. Smoking tobacco causes temporary spikes in blood pressure, and causes progressive damage to blood vessel walls, further increasing the risk of hypertension.

Step #6: Drink in Moderation

Excessive alcohol consumption increases blood pressure, as well as directly damaging the liver, heart and brain. If you’re concerned with hypertension and heart disease prevention, limit alcohol consumption to no more than one drink per day if you’re female, and no more than two if you’re male.

Adhering to these prevention tips won’t guarantee a life without high blood pressure. Genetics, certain medical conditions and other hypertension causes not linked to lifestyle can still increase blood pressure. However, if you do require medication for hypertension, lifestyle changes help high blood pressure medication work at peak efficiency.

Resources

Hypertension Prevention Staff. (2006). Hypertension prevention in 6 simple steps. Retrieved January 28, 2010, from the Hypertension Prevention Web site:  http://www.hypertensionprevention.com/.

National High Blood Pressure Education Program Staff. (2002). Primary prevention of hypertension: Clinical and public health advisory from the national high blood pressure education program. Retrieved January 28, 2010, from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute Web site: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/prof/heart/hbp/pphbp.pdf.