Blood pressure is the pressure of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries. Arteries carry blood from your heart to other parts of your body. Blood pressure normally rises and falls throughout the day, but it can damage your heart and cause health problems if it stays high for a long time. Hypertension, also called high blood pressure, is blood pressure that is higher than normal.
Hypertension is diagnosed when blood pressure readings taken at different times show levels higher than 130/80 mm Hg. The heart must work harder to pump blood. Untreated high blood pressure increases the risks of a heart attack and stroke. Healthy lifestyle changes can help lower blood pressure. Once you have high blood pressure, it is important to manage it.
If your blood pressure is too high, work with your healthcare provider to find ways to lower it. If lifestyle changes aren't enough, they may prescribe medicine.
Below are changes you can make to help lower your blood pressure:
- Choose heart-healthy foods. Ask your provider about the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan. DASH limits sodium (salt) and suggests eating lots of fruits and vegetables, low-fat or nonfat dairy products, whole grains and other foods high in fiber and low in fat. It also suggests increasing the amount of potassium, which can help lower blood pressure.
- Reduce sodium. Eating less sodium reduces fluid retention. Fluid retention caused by too much salt increases blood volume and blood pressure. The American Heart Association (AHA) advises that you should consume no more than 1,500 mg sodium a day. But because Americans eat so much salt, the AHA says cutting back to even 2,300 mg a day offers benefits.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight makes you more likely to be diagnosed with high blood pressure. Losing excess weight helps lower blood pressure.
- Exercise regularly. Daily exercise helps your heart and blood vessels work better and stay healthier. It can also help lower your blood pressure.
- Do not smoke. Smoking increases your blood pressure and damages blood vessels.
- Limit alcohol intake. Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure. Men should have no more than 2 drinks a day. Women should have no more than 1 a day. A drink is equal to 1 beer, a small glass of wine, or a shot of liquor.
- Control stress. Stress makes your heart work harder and beat faster. Managing stress in a healthy way helps you control your blood pressure.
If lifestyle changes aren’t enough to lower your blood pressure, your healthcare provider may prescribe medication. Take all medications as directed. If you have any questions about your prescriptions, ask your provider before stopping or changing them.
The National Institute of Health (NIH) lists several common possible high blood pressure medications your provider may prescribe:
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors prevent your blood vessels from narrowing too much.
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) can also keep blood vessels from narrowing.
- Calcium channel blockers prevent calcium from entering the muscle cells of your heart and blood vessels. This allows blood vessels to relax.
- Diuretics removes extra water and sodium (salt) from your body, reducing the amount of fluid in your blood. The main diuretic for high blood pressure treatment is thiazide. Diuretics are often used with other high blood pressure medicines, sometimes in one combined pill.
- Beta blockers help the heart beat slower, with less force. As a result, your heart pumps less blood through your blood vessels. Beta blockers are typically used only as a backup option or if you have been diagnosed with other conditions.
- Cardiovascular Services: Services that treat the heart and circulatory (blood vessels) system.
- Laboratory Services: Services that test blood, urine, saliva, and other items from the body for conditions, illnesses, or diseases.
- Biometric Equipment: Digital blood pressure cuff and weight scale
- Weight Loss Health Coaching Sessions: Age 10 years and up. Must submit a consent form, verbally pledge to lose weight within 30 days and complete 6 sessions within 6 months. Earn $20.
- Tobacco Cessation Health Coaching Sessions: Age 10 years and up. Must submit a consent form, verbally pledge to stop tobacco use and complete all 4 sessions within 6 months of the first session. $5 reward after each completed session. Earn up to $20.
Learn more about Healthy Rewards.
- The American Heart Association: A nonprofit that educates consumers on how to prevent and manage heart disease through healthy living and funds cardiovascular medical research. The AHA provides support networks for those who have suffered a heart attack and/or stroke. Their community of survivors and caregivers offers continued support.
- Sunshine Health Community Resource Database: Find more free resources through Sunshine Health’s Community Resource Database. Enter your ZIP code to search for help with food, shelter, healthcare, money, school, jobs and more.
- Sunshine Health offers Case Management for care coordination needs and support with the management of your condition.