10 Ways To Prevent Hypertension

High blood pressure is a dangerous condition that affects one in three people in the US.¹

Guidelines issued in 2017 by the American Academy of Cardiology define high blood pressure as 130/80mm Hg or higher.²

Nearly half of the US population has hypertension as per these guidelines, and it is often unavoidable due to factors like age, sex, and family history.

Fortunately, there are certain steps you can take to prevent hypertension and reduce the risk of cardiovascular issues.

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1. Be physically active

Physical activity helps lower stress levels, manage weight, and strengthen your heart. Therefore, implementing a fitness routine is one of the best decisions you'll ever make to lower blood pressure.

Even regularly going for a brisk walk is good for the heart. Being physically inactive increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, and other cardiovascular health problems. Regular aerobic activity is perfect for the heart, lungs, and circulation.

Here are some guidelines to get you started while ensuring optimal health benefits:

  • Get at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity physical activity per week

  • Spread physical activity throughout the week

  • Break up your workout goals however you like — say 30 minutes each day for five days a week

  • Include flexibility, strengthening, and muscle-strengthening exercises in your workout routine

The goal is to get moving. Start with something you enjoy if you are new to working out or haven't been active for a while. As your body adjusts to an activity level, find ways to push yourself further. Make sure you talk to your doctor if you have a pre-existing cardiovascular condition.

If you enjoy being outdoors, you can try jogging, riding a bicycle, or walking. You don't have to run marathons either. Simple activities like those listed below can go a long way towards reducing blood pressure.

  • Climbing stairs

  • Walking instead of driving

  • Gardening

  • Playing a team sport 

  • Doing household chores

  • Swimming

Don't be afraid to mix it up and add variety to your workouts or team up with friends and family. It will keep you focused and motivated and reduce the risk of injury.

Be careful not to overdo it, as too much exercise can injure and make your muscles sore. Last but not least, remember to warm up before workouts and cool down towards the end. 

2. Reduce sodium and increase potassium intake

The body needs sodium to maintain acid-base balance, plasma volume, normal cell function, and transmission of nerve impulses. Too much sodium increases the risk of high blood pressure, kidney disease, and other adverse health problems.

While it occurs naturally in various foods, most of the sodium in our diets comes from processed and packaged foods. Limiting consumption of these foods can lower blood pressure and prevent hypertension from developing in the first place.

Salt affects people differently, and the American Heart Association recommends a daily limit of 2,300mg for healthy adults. Those with high blood pressure issues should take no more than 1,500mg of salt per day. 

How do you reduce sodium from your diet?

  • Choose whole, unprocessed foods and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.

  • Check food labels at the grocery store and choose foods with the lowest sodium per 100g

  • Avoid placing salt and salty sauces on the table to discourage children from developing a habit of adding salt. 

  • Swap salt with herbs, spices, citrus, and garlic when adding flavor to food

  • Cut back on processed meats, salty takeaways, and smoked foods.

How to increase your potassium intake

Increasing potassium intake helps counter the effects of salt while easing the tension in your blood vessels. However, it can pose a problem for people with kidney issues. Make sure you talk to your doctor before increasing your potassium intake.

Consuming more potassium is easy as the mineral occurs naturally in various foods. These include:

  • Fish

  • Low-fat dairy products

  • Vegetables like spinach, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and potatoes

  • Fruits like apricots, avocados, bananas, and oranges

3. Maintain a healthy weight

Weight and blood pressure are major public health concerns, considering their impact on the renal and cardiovascular systems, and this is particularly true for those who are obese.

According to the CDC, one is overweight and obese if their weight is higher than what is considered appropriate for their height.³

If you are concerned about your weight, consult your doctor to determine a weight goal that's ideal for you. Many experts recommend SMART goals — specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound — for lasting weight loss results.

Think of process goals instead of losing a certain number of pounds. For instance, you can aim to walk 10,000 steps a day instead of shedding five pounds each month.

Even small reductions in your weight can greatly impact your blood pressure. A study published in 2012 found that losing 5% to 20% of your baseline weight can normalize blood pressure.⁴ Healthy ways to lose excess weight include eating a healthy diet and getting regular physical activity.

Besides shedding extra weight, you should try to watch your waistline. Carrying excess weight around the waist can increase the risk of hypertension.

Generally, women are at risk of high blood pressure if their waist measurement is higher than 35 inches. The maximum healthy weight measurement for men is 40 inches.

These numbers vary depending on various factors, including age and ethnicity. Consult with a doctor to find out your healthy waist measurement.

4. Learn to manage stress

One of the key factors that drive high blood pressure is stress. It causes a surge of hormones in the body, increasing heart rate and narrowing the blood vessels.

While there is no proof that stress causes long-term high blood pressure, how you react to stressors in your life can increase the risk of hypertension, stroke, and heart failure.

Some people respond to stress by indulging in alcohol, unhealthy foods, and smoking, which are bad for your blood pressure. Heart disease has also been linked to certain stress-related conditions like anxiety, depression, and isolation from friends and family.

The hormones produced when stressed can damage your blood vessels and lead to heart disease. Learning to manage stress can lead to behavioral changes that are good for your blood pressure. But what are your options for managing stress?

Simplify your schedule

Start by simplifying your schedule if you feel like you're always rushing. Take some time to review your calendar and eliminate or schedule less time for unimportant activities.

Take deep breaths and/or exercise

Taking deep breaths when you are anxious can help you relax. Exercise can also be a great stress reliever. Remember to consult a doctor before starting a new workout program, especially if you have high blood pressure.

Consider yoga and meditation

Both techniques can strengthen the body while helping you relax, and they can also lower your systolic blood pressure by 5mm Hg or more. You must learn to shift your perspective when dealing with stressful situations instead of complaining.

Acknowledging how you feel about the situation and working to find a solution can go a long way towards reducing stress and maintaining healthy blood pressure levels.

The goal of learning stress management is to find what works for you. Be open to experimenting with different strategies and enjoying the benefits.

5. Limit alcohol intake

Alcohol-related high blood pressure impacts about 16% of the population. Repeated alcohol consumption causes the blood vessels to become narrower with time.

In addition, men and women who binge drink alcohol, about 4–5 drinks in 2 hours, are at increased risk of hypertension. The more alcohol you drink, the higher the risk of developing high blood pressure, and this is particularly true for those over 35 or anyone with chronic health problems.

Alcohol damages the muscles of the blood vessels, forcing the heart to work harder to push blood throughout the body. The result is increased blood pressure, which increases the risk of stroke, chronic kidney disease, heart disease, and vascular dementia.

Cutting back on the amount of alcohol you consume or avoiding it altogether can reduce your risk of hypertension. It also helps with weight loss, reduced anxiety, improved mood, increased energy levels, slimmer waistline, and better sleep.

Consider the tips below to reduce alcohol intake:

Set yourself a drink limit and count your drinks

The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends a maximum of 10 drinks per week and four drinks per drinking session.⁵

Swap to low- or no-alcohol alternatives

These products taste the same but contain less alcohol.

Have a few alcohol-free days each week

This will help you break bad habits and stay healthy. Consider taking up other healthy behaviors like working out and eating a balanced diet.

Keep up your water and food intake

Reach for water when you are thirsty instead of alcohol. Avoid drinking on an empty stomach as this increases the rate of alcohol metabolism. Additionally, ensure that you alternate alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic drinks like soda water, soft drinks, water, or juice.

Limit the amount of alcohol you keep in the house

If it's not there, you cannot drink it. Instead, stock your home with non-alcoholic beverages like good teas, juice, and sparkling water.

Change up your after-work routine

Rather than reach for a beer or glass of wine after work, try healthier alternatives like going for a walk, jog, or a tasty non-alcoholic drink. Delay that first drink until dinner is served.

6. Cut back on caffeine

The blood pressure response to caffeine differs from one person to another, and researchers aren't sure why.

Some researchers believe that caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, meaning that it blocks the hormone that helps widen the blood vessels. Others believe that it triggers the adrenal gland to secrete more adrenaline, which causes an increase in blood pressure.

Some people who drink caffeinated drinks regularly have hypertension problems, while others develop a tolerance to it. As a result, caffeine generally has a short-term effect on your blood pressure.

For people already dealing with hypertension, consult your doctor to determine if you should cut back or stop drinking caffeinated drinks. According to the US Food and Drug Administration, 400mg of caffeine per day is safe.⁶ This equates to about 4–5 cups of coffee.

Consider cutting that amount by half if you're concerned about the effect of caffeine on your blood pressure. Keep in mind that the caffeine content in tea, coffee, energy drinks, and other beverages varies depending on the brand and how it was prepared.

An easy way to figure out if caffeine affects your blood pressure is to check it before drinking a caffeinated drink and again 30–120 minutes afterward. If the numbers increase by 5–10 points (millimeters of mercury), you may have to consider cutting back on caffeine.

Reduce your caffeine intake gradually over several days to prevent withdrawal symptoms, which can also cause hypertension.

Experts also recommend avoiding caffeine before activities that raise blood pressure like workouts, hard physical labor, or weightlifting.

Other tips for reducing caffeine intake include:

  • Water down drinks that contain caffeine

  • Switch to low-caffeine drinks in the morning like green tea

  • Try decaf coffee, decaffeinated soda, fruit juice, or water

  • Brewing tea for shorter periods reduce the amount of caffeine in it

  • Read the labels of foods and beverages carefully to keep tabs on how much caffeine you're taking

7. Cut back on sugar

Too much sugar also plays a role in the development of hypertension. Fructose is a simple sugar that raises uric acid levels, inhibiting nitric oxide production (NO).

Nitric oxide plays a crucial role in helping the blood vessels dilate and retain their flexibility. Without it, your blood pressure will likely increase. Excess sugar also contributes to obesity, a risk factor for hypertension.

Consuming sugar increases insulin levels and activates the sympathetic nervous system, increasing the heart rate and blood pressure.

The body develops insulin resistance as insulin levels increase, hindering the body's ability to store magnesium. As a result, blood vessels cannot relax, and the blood pressure rises.

Sugar also reduces the sensitivity of receptors responsible for lowering blood pressure.

A great way to prevent hypertension and related conditions is to cut back on sugar. The American Heart Association recommends the following tips for reducing sugar intake:

  • Substitute sugar with unsweetened applesauce in your recipes

  • Toss out the table sugar, honey, molasses, and syrup. Also, reduce the amount of sugar you add to pancakes, cereal, coffee, and tea.

  • Swap out the sugary drinks and instead opt for diet drinks and water

  • Choose food products with the lowest amount of sugar per 100g

  • Eat fresh, dried, canned, or frozen fruit.

  • Rather than add sugar to cereal, consider adding fresh fruit like bananas, strawberries, or cherries. Dried cranberries, raisins, and apricots are just as great.

  • Enhance foods with spices like ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice

  • Try using almond, vanilla, lemon, and orange extracts instead of sugar.

8. Eat healthy foods

Most people underestimate how many calories they consume in a day and wonder why they aren’t losing weight. You can normalize your blood pressure by starting new food habits such as tracking portion sizes and watching your calorie intake. Keeping track of your foods and portions can help you determine what foods you need to cut back on to reduce calories and effectively manage your blood pressure.

Some foods you want to reduce or cut from your diet include alcohol, salt, sugar, nitrates, and partially hydrogenated oil.

Sodium nitrate is the most popular preservative for salty, processed meats. Too much of it can increase the risk of hypertension, heart disease, and cancer.

Avoid processed meats as much as possible and instead choose lean, fresh meats and seafood.

Partially hydrogenated oil (trans fats) is quite dangerous, especially for overweight people. It increases the risk of insulin resistance and heart disease.

Increasing potassium, magnesium, and fiber in your diet can normalize blood pressure. Whole fruits and vegetables are high in these nutrients and have minimal sodium. Lean meats, poultry, nuts, legumes, and seeds are excellent sources of magnesium.

Consider trying the DASH diet plan, which provides daily and weekly nutritional goals.⁷ It cuts out sweetened beverages, desserts, processed and red meats, and fats.

Consult a doctor for help starting the DASH diet and determining how many calories you need daily for optimal health.

9. Control blood pressure during pregnancy

Some women develop hypertension during pregnancy. This increases the risk of eclampsia, pre-eclampsia, stroke, placental abruption, and the need for labor induction, which increases the health risk of the mother and baby.

High blood pressure can also bring about complications for the baby, such as low birth weight and pre-term delivery. This makes it more important to consult a doctor and find ways to control blood pressure during pregnancy.

Tell your doctor before getting pregnant if you have pre-existing conditions or are currently taking medication. Your doctor can help you find blood pressure medications that are safe to take during pregnancy.

Ensure you incorporate the tips mentioned above to lower blood pressure during pregnancy. You'll also want to get early and regular prenatal care. Go to every appointment and talk to your doctor about any drugs you're taking. If you're prescribed high blood medication, don't stop taking it without first talking to your doctor. Track your blood pressure at home, and contact your doctor if it's higher than usual.

More often than not, blood pressure normalizes shortly after giving birth. However, you must pay attention to how you feel after delivery as you may still be at risk of stroke or pre-eclampsia. Call for help immediately if you notice the following symptoms:

  • A headache that won't go away

  • Pain in the upper stomach

  • Swelling in the face and hands

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Blurry vision, seeing spots, or other changes in your vision

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Sudden weight gain

10. Monitor your blood pressure at home

Monitoring your blood pressure at home helps you keep tabs on your blood pressure and alerts you to potential complications. It is particularly beneficial for people who have been diagnosed with hypertension, individuals starting high blood pressure treatment, and pregnant women. It also helps evaluate false readings like "white-coat" and "masked" hypertension.

White-coat hypertension is where your blood pressure spikes at the doctor's office only, while masked hypertension is where you have elevated out-of-office blood pressure. Ensure you keep a log of your blood pressure readings and carry the record to every doctor's appointment.

You need either an aneroid (a manual device requiring a stethoscope to measure the blood pressure reading) or a digital blood pressure monitor. Choose the type that best fits your needs depending on price, size, sound, and display.

Once you purchase a monitor, ask your doctor to check it for accuracy at least once a year.

Before checking your blood pressure, you should:

  • Rest for 3–5 minutes without talking

  • Wait at least half an hour after taking caffeinated drinks, smoking, or alcoholic drinks

  • Sit in a comfortable position with the back supported and your legs uncrossed

  • Elevate your left arm to the level of your heart and place it on a table 

  • Wrap the cuff around your left arm, leaving enough wiggle room to slip a finger

  • Ensure the bottom of the cuff edge is placed 1 inch above the crease of the elbow

  • Take blood pressure readings at the same time every day

The lowdown

Making changes to your lifestyle habits can go a long way toward preventing hypertension. Start with small goals like hydrating regularly or snacking on fresh fruits instead of junk food. Soon enough, these healthy habits will become part of your daily routine.

Remember to visit your doctor at least once a year and consult them about what diet or workout plans should work best for you.

Have you considered clinical trials for High blood pressure?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for High blood pressure, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Joining community groups and exercise programs for my condition made me feel empowered – but I want to be part of finding a cure.
Peter, 64

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