Hypertension is another name for high blood pressure. It can lead to severe health complications and increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and sometimes death.
Blood pressure is the force that a person’s blood exerts against the walls of their blood vessels. This pressure depends on the resistance of the blood vessels and how hard the heart has to work.
Almost half of all adults in the United States have high blood pressure, but many are not aware of this fact.
Hypertension is a primary risk factor for cardiovascular disease, including stroke, heart attack, heart failure, and aneurysm. Keeping blood pressure under control is vital for preserving health and reducing the risk of these dangerous conditions.
In this article, we explain why blood pressure can increase, how to monitor it, and ways to keep it within a normal range.
Management and treatment
Lifestyle adjustments are the standard, first-line treatment for hypertension. We outline some recommendations here:
Regular physical exercise
Share on PinterestPeople can measure blood pressure using a sphygmomanometer.
Current guidelines recommend that all people, including those with hypertension, engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity, aerobic exercise every week, or 75 minutes a week of high intensity exercise.
People should exercise on at least 5 days of the week.
Examples of suitable activities are walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming.
Avoiding or learning to manage stress can help a person control blood pressure.
Meditation, warm baths, yoga, and simply going on long walks are relaxation techniques that can help relieve stress.
People should avoid consuming alcohol, recreational drugs, tobacco, and junk food to cope with stress, as these can contribute to elevated blood pressure and the complications of hypertension.
Smoking can increase blood pressure. Avoiding or quitting smoking reduces the risk of hypertension, serious heart conditions, and other health issues.
People can use specific medications to treat hypertension. Doctors will often recommend a low dose at first. Antihypertensive medications will usually only have minor side effects.
Eventually, people with hypertension will need to combine two or more drugs to manage their blood pressure.
Medications for hypertension include:
- diuretics, including thiazides, chlorthalidone, and indapamide
- beta-blockers and alpha-blockers
- calcium-channel blockers
- central agonists
- peripheral adrenergic inhibitor
- angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
- angiotensin receptor blockers
The choice of medication depends on the individual and any underlying medical conditions they may experience.
Anyone on antihypertensive medications should carefully read the labels of any over-the-counter (OTC) drugs they may also take, such as decongestants. These OTC drugs may interact with the medications they are taking to lower their blood pressure.
People can prevent high blood pressure by following a heart-healthy diet.
Reducing salt intake
People’s average salt intake is between 9 grams (g) and 12 g per day in most countries around the world.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommend reducing intake to under 5 gTrusted Source a day to help decrease the risk of hypertension and related health problems.
Lowering salt intake can benefit people both with and without hypertension.
Moderating alcohol consumption
Moderate to excessive alcohol consumption can increase blood pressure.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommend a maximum of two alcoholic drinks a day for men, and one for women.
The following would count as one drink:
- a 12-ounce (oz) bottle of beer
- 4 oz of wine
- 1.5 oz of 80-proof spirits
- 1 oz of 100-proof spirits
A healthcare provider can help people reduce consumption if they find it difficult to moderate their alcohol intake.
Eating more fruit and vegetables and less fat
People who have high blood pressure or people at high risk of developing high blood pressure should eat as little saturated and total fat as possible.
Instead, experts recommend:
- whole grain, high fiber foods
- a variety of fruit and vegetables
- beans, pulses, and nuts
- fish rich in omega-3 twice a week
- nontropical vegetable oils, for example, olive oil
- skinless poultry and fish
- low fat dairy products
It is important to avoid trans fats, hydrogenated vegetable oils, and animal fats, as well as large portion sizes.
Some fats, such as those in oily fish and olive oil, have protective effects on the heart. However, these are still fats. While they are typically healthful, people with a risk of hypertension should still include them in their total fat intake.
Managing body weight
Excess body weight can contribute to hypertension. A fall in blood pressure usually follows weight loss, as the heart does not have to work so hard to pump blood around the body.
A balanced diet with a calorie intake that matches the individual’s size, sex, and activity level will help.
The DASH diet
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) recommend the DASH dietTrusted Source for people with high blood pressure. DASH stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.”
DASH is a flexible and balanced eating plan with a firm grounding in research by the NHLBI who advise that the diet:
- lowers high blood pressure
- improves levels of fats in the bloodstream
- reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease
The NHLBI produce a cookbook called Keep the Beat Recipes that provides meal ideas to help reduce blood pressure.