Hypertension (high blood pressure) is a common condition that can lead to serious complications if untreated. Making dietary changes and losing weight are effective treatments for reducing blood pressure.
Other lifestyle changes that can help to reduce blood pressure include stopping smoking, reducing stress, reducing alcohol consumption, and exercising regularly. These changes are effective when used alone, but often have the greatest benefit when used together.
Dietary changes and blood pressure
Making changes in what you eat can help to control high blood pressure.
Reduce sodium — The main source of sodium in the diet is the salt contained in packaged and processed foods and in foods from restaurants. Reducing the amount of sodium you consume can lower blood pressure if you have high or borderline high blood pressure.
The body requires a small amount of sodium in the diet. However, most people consume more sodium than they need. A low-sodium diet contains fewer than 2 grams (2,000 milligrams) of sodium each day.
Reduce alcohol — Drinking an excessive amount of alcohol increases your risk of developing high blood pressure. People who have more than two drinks per day have an increased risk of high blood pressure compared to non-drinkers; the risk is greatest when you drink more than five drinks per day.
On the other hand, drinking one (for women) or two (for men) alcoholic beverages per day appears to benefit the heart in people greater than 40 years old. This protective effect applies to people with pre-existing high blood pressure.
Eat more fruits and vegetables — Eating a vegetarian diet may reduce high blood pressure and protect against developing high blood pressure. A strict vegetarian diet may not be necessary; eating more fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy products may also lower blood pressure.
Eat more fibre — Eating an increased amount of fibre may decrease blood pressure. The recommended amount of dietary fibre is 20 to 35 grams of fibre per day. Many breakfast cereals are excellent sources of dietary fibre. More information about increasing fibre is available separately.
Eat more fish — Eating more fish may help to lower blood pressure, especially when combined with weight loss.
Caffeine — Caffeine may cause a small rise in blood pressure, although this effect is usually temporary. Drinking a moderate amount of caffeine (less than 2 cups of coffee per day) does not increase the risk of high blood pressure in most people.
Regular aerobic exercise (walking, running) for 20 to 30 minutes most days of the week can lower your blood pressure, although the effect is not as pronounced among older adults. To maintain this benefit, you must continue to exercise; stopping exercise will allow your blood pressure to become high again.
Weight loss and blood pressure
Being overweight or obese increases your risk of having high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. The definition of overweight and obese are based upon a calculation called body mass index (BMI). You are said to be overweight if your BMI is greater than 25, while a person with a BMI of 30 or greater is said to be obese. People who are overweight or obese can benefit from losing weight.
To lose weight you must eat less and exercise more.
What if i still have high blood pressure?
If you continue to have high blood pressure despite making changes in your diet, exercising more, and losing weight, you may need a medication to reduce your blood pressure.
Where to get more information?
Your doctor is the best source of information for questions and concerns related to your medical problem.