The medical term for high blood pressure is hypertension. Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of arteries. High blood pressure is dangerous because it makes the heart work too hard and contributes to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). It increases the risk of heart disease and stroke, which are the first- and third-leading causes of death among Americans. High blood pressure also can result in other conditions, such as congestive heart failure, kidney disease, and blindness.
A blood pressure level of 140/90 mmHg or higher is considered high. About two-thirds of people over age 65 have high blood pressure. If your blood pressure is between 120/80 mmHg and 139/89 mmHg, then you have pre-hypertension. This means that you don’t have high blood pressure now but are likely to develop it in the future unless you adopt healthy lifestyle changes.
If you have hypertension or pre-hypertension adopting the following six-lifestyle changes will help you to manage your blood pressure and reduce your risk of developing heart disease and stroke.
✓ Maintain a healthy weight
• Check with your health care provider to see if you need to lose weight.
• If you do, lose weight slowly using a healthy eating plan and engaging in physical activity.
✓ Be physically active
• Engage in physical activity for a total of 30 minutes on most days of the week.
• Combine everyday chores with moderate-level sporting activities, such as walking, to achieve your physical activity goals.
✓ Follow a healthy eating plan
• Set up a healthy eating plan with foods low in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol, and high in fruits, vegetables, and low fat dairy foods.
• Write down everything that you eat and drink in a food diary. Note areas that are successful or need improvement.
• If you are trying to lose weight, choose an eating plan that is lower in calories.
✓ Reduce sodium in your diet
• Choose foods that are low in salt and other forms of sodium.
• Use spices, garlic, and onions to add flavor to your meals without adding more sodium.
✓ Drink alcohol only in moderation
• In addition to raising blood pressure, too much alcohol can add unneeded calories to your diet.
• If you drink alcoholic beverages, have only a moderate amount—one drink a day for women, two drinks a day for men.
✓ Take prescribed drugs as directed
• If you need drugs to help lower your blood pressure, you still must follow the lifestyle changes mentioned above.
• Use notes and other reminders to help you remember to take your drugs. Ask your family to help you with reminder phone calls and messages.