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75% of adults with high blood pressure don’t have it under control. Take charge.

Reviewed 10/1/2021

9 ways to take charge of your blood pressure

What can you do to manage your blood pressure? A lot, fortunately.

Is your blood pressure under control? If you're not sure, it's time to find out. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), almost half of American adults have high blood pressure. And most of them don't have it under control.

High blood pressure is the No. 1 cause for heart attack and stroke. The good news is that there's much you can do to help manage your blood pressure. Here are 9 tips from the AHA.

1. KNOW YOUR NUMBERS.

Normal blood pressure is 120/80 or below. Anything over that is considered high and brings an increased risk for heart disease and stroke. If you've been diagnosed with high blood pressure, your healthcare provider can tell you your personal target blood pressure level.

2. TAKE YOUR MEDICATION AS PRESCRIBED.

Has your doctor prescribed high blood pressure medication for you? Take it exactly as ordered. And don't stop taking it unless your doctor tells you to.

3. BE CAREFUL WHEN TAKING OVER-THE-COUNTER (OTC) MEDICINES.

Read their labels. Many OTC medicines—like ibuprofen and decongestants—can raise your blood pressure. Talk to your doctor about medicines that won't raise your blood pressure.

4. KEEP A HEALTHY WEIGHT.

Aim for a body mass index between 18.5 and 24.9. If you're overweight, losing as little as 5 to 10 pounds could help lower your blood pressure.

5. EAT NUTRITIOUSLY.

Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Choose low-fat dairy products and lean meats, and reduce saturated and total fat in your diet.

6. REDUCE SODIUM INTAKE.

One teaspoon of salt contains about 2,300 mg of sodium. That's the upper limit of what the AHA recommends for daily intake. Ideally, you should limit salt to 1,500 mg per day. Avoiding prepackaged, processed and prepared foods is a great way to reduce your sodium intake.

7. EXERCISE.

Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity per week. Brisk walking counts. Make it simple by scheduling 30 minutes of activity at least five days a week.

Exercise is safe for almost everyone, and the benefits outweigh any risks. Ease in to exercise if you haven't been active for a while. And talk to your doctor if you have a preexisting condition, like heart disease.

8. KNOW THE RISKS OF ALCOHOL.

Avoid excessive use of alcohol. If you don't drink, don't start.

9. DON'T SMOKE.

Nicotine can raise your blood pressure, and both tobacco products and vaping products have it. If you don't smoke, don't start. If you do smoke, ask your doctor for help quitting.

FIND OUT HOW HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE DAMAGES YOUR BODY.

LEARN MORE

Source: American Heart Association

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