High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is a serious health problem. If you’ve never been diagnosed with high blood pressure, you may think you have nothing to worry about.
But high blood pressure often has no symptoms. You can have high blood pressure for years and not know it. It’s important to find out because if left untreated, it can cause serious harm to your heart, kidneys and eyes. People with high blood pressure have a greater risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, taking medication can help control it. But your doctor may suggest that you make some lifestyle changes first to try to bring your blood pressure down without medicine. Small steps can add up to a big improvement.
Follow These 10 Healthy Habits
The Mayo Clinic offers tips on making lifestyle changes to help control your blood pressure.
- Watch your weight. If you’re overweight, losing even a few pounds can help.
- Boost your physical activity. Aim for 30 minutes on most days.
- Pick fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy. Check out the DASH diet.
- Check food labels to limit salt. Skip processed foods.
- Drink alcohol only in moderation.
- Don’t smoke. A cigarette raises your blood pressure for many minutes after you’re done.
- Watch your caffeine habits. Check your blood pressure less than 30 minutes after drinking a caffeinated drink and again at least 30 minutes after to see if it changes.
- Learn to manage your stress so you don’t overeat or do other unhealthy things. Regularly take time to relax and do things you enjoy to help you destress.
- Visit your doctor regularly, and keep tabs on your blood pressure by checking it at home.
- Seek support for your healthy habits from family and friends.
Know the Facts About High Blood Pressure
What is high blood pressure? Blood pressure is the force of blood against your artery walls as it circulates through your body. Blood pressure normally rises and falls throughout the day, but it can cause health problems if it stays high for a long time. High blood pressure can lead to heart disease and stroke — leading causes of death in the United States.
Are you at risk? One in 3 American adults has high blood pressure — that’s an estimated 67 million people. Anyone, including children, can develop it. Several factors that are beyond your control can increase your risk for high blood pressure. These include your age, sex, and race or ethnicity. But you can work to reduce your risk by eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking and being physically active.
What are the signs and symptoms? High blood pressure usually has no warning signs or symptoms, so many people don’t realize they have it. That’s why it’s important to visit your doctor regularly to have it checked.
How is high blood pressure diagnosed? Your doctor measures your blood pressure by wrapping an inflatable cuff with a pressure gauge around your arm to squeeze the blood vessels. Then the doctor listens to your pulse with a stethoscope while releasing air from the cuff. The gauge measures the pressure in the blood vessels when the heart beats (systolic) and when it rests (diastolic).
How is it treated? If you have high blood pressure, your doctor may prescribe medication to treat it. Lifestyle changes, such as the ones listed above, can be just as important as taking medicines. Talk with your doctor about the best ways to reduce your risk for high blood pressure.
The silent killer.
Since high blood pressure often causes no noticeable symptoms, checking your blood pressure regularly is vital, even when you’re feeling fine. Talk to your doctor about what changes you can make to keep it under control. And if you do take medicine to control your blood pressure, take it exactly as directed.
Sources: The Facts About High Blood Pressure, American Heart Association, 2017; 10 Ways to Control High Blood Pressure Without Medication, Mayo Clinic, 2018; DASH Eating Plan, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; Monitoring Your Blood Pressure at Home, American Heart Association, 2017; Checking Blood Pressure: Do Try This at Home, Harvard Medical School, 2018