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Six steps to controlling high blood pressure

Knowing your numbers can decrease your risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart failure

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This content is provided to Johns Hopkins employees through a partnership with EHP.

High blood pressure (hypertension) is often called the silent killer. This is because many people who have it don't know it. High blood pressure can raise your risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart failure. Controlling your blood pressure can decrease your risk of these problems. Know your blood pressure and remember to check it regularly. Doing so can save your life.

Blood pressure measurements are given as two numbers. The upper one is systolic blood pressure, which is when the heart contracts. The lower one is diastolic blood pressure, which is when the heart relaxes between beats. Blood pressure is categorized as normal, elevated, or stage 1 or stage 2 high blood pressure:

  • Normal blood pressure is systolic of less than 120 and diastolic of less than 80 (120/80)
  • Elevated blood pressure is systolic of 120 to 129 and diastolic less than 80
  • Stage 1 high blood pressure is systolic of 130 to 139 or diastolic between 80 and 89
  • Stage 2 high blood pressure is when systolic is 140 or higher or the diastolic is 90 or higher

Here are some things you can do to help control your blood pressure.

1. Choose heart-healthy foods

  • Select low-salt, low-fat foods. Limit sodium intake to 2,400 mg per day or the amount suggested by your health care provider.
  • Limit canned, dried, cured, packaged, and fast foods. These can contain a lot of salt.
  • Eat eight to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
  • Choose lean meats, fish, or chicken.
  • Eat whole-grain pasta, brown rice, and beans.
  • Eat two to three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy products daily.
  • Ask your doctor about the DASH eating plan, which helps reduce blood pressure.
  • At a restaurant, ask that your meal be prepared with no added salt.

2. Maintain a healthy weight

  • Ask your health care provider what weight range is healthiest for you. If you are overweight, a loss of only 3 to 5% of your body weight can help lower blood pressure. Generally, a good weight-loss goal is 10% of your body weight in a year.
  • Ask your health care provider how many calories to eat in a day. Then stick to that number.
  • Limit snacks and sweets.
  • Get regular exercise.

3. Get up and get active

  • Choose activities you enjoy. Find ones you can do with friends or family. Bicycling, dancing, walking, and jogging are good options.
  • Park farther away from building entrances.
  • Use stairs instead of the elevator.
  • When you can, walk or bike instead of drive.
  • Rake leaves, garden, or do household repairs.
  • Maintain a moderate to vigorous level of physical activity for 40 minutes or more at least three or four days a week.

4. Manage stress

  • Make time to relax and enjoy life. Find time to laugh.
  • Communicate your concerns with your loved ones and your health care provider.
  • Visit with family and friends, and keep up with hobbies.

5. Limit alcohol and quit smoking

  • Men should have no more than two drinks per day.
  • Women should have no more than one drink per day.
  • Smoking significantly increases your risk for heart disease and stroke, so talk with your health care provider about quitting smoking. Ask about community smoking cessation programs and other options.

6. Medicines

If lifestyle changes aren't enough to lower your blood pressure, your health care provider may prescribe medicine. Take all medicines as prescribed. If you have any questions about your medicines, ask your health care provider before stopping or changing them.

Posted in Health+Wellness