Health Advocate Blog

Do you have high blood pressure? These tips can help lower it–or even help you prevent it

May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month. While you’ve likely heard about the condition of high blood pressure, you may not be aware of how damaging it can be and how important it is to take steps to keep your blood pressure in the normal range.

First, what is blood pressure? It’s the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood. If this pressure rises and remains high over time, it can damage the heart, blood vessels, kidneys, and other organs, increasing your risk of heart and kidney disease, stroke, and blindness.

High blood pressure (blood pressure over 140/90) affects 1 in 3 American adults. And another 59 million Americans have prehypertension—their blood pressure is between 120/80 and 140/89—which can increase their chances of developing high blood pressure. The bad news is, many people don’t know that they have these conditions and/or aren’t taking the appropriate measures to control their conditions. But the good news is that high blood pressure can not only be prevented, it can also be lowered.

How can you lower blood pressure?
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends…
• Maintaining a healthy weight
• Being moderately physically active for at least 30 minutes during most days of the week
• If you drink alcohol, do so only in moderation
• If you already have high blood pressure, following your doctor’s advice and taking your prescribed medications as directed
• Following a healthy eating plan, such as DASH (which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension)

What is the DASH healthy eating plan?
• It focuses on eating fruits, vegetables, fat-free or low-fait milk and dairy products, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds, and nuts.
• This eating plan contains less salt, sodium, sweets, added sugars, fats, and red meats than the typical American diet.
• The DASH eating plan doesn’t require any special recipes or hard-to-find foods—it just calls for a certain number of daily servings from various food groups. The number of servings depends on your recommended daily caloric intake.

What are some healthy eating tips for lowering blood pressure?
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends…
• To gradually get used to a DASH diet, take one step at a time. Add a serving of veggies to your lunch one day, and a serving of veggies to dinner the next day. And the next day, consider switching out your usual snack for a piece of fresh fruit.
• Limit lean meats to 6 oz. a day—3 oz. per portion. A 3 oz. portion of meat is about the size of a deck of cards.
• When you’re planning your upcoming meals, plan to have two or more vegetarian (meatless) meals each week.
• Use fresh, frozen, or low-sodium canned vegetables and fruits.
• Increase your servings of vegetables, cooked dry beans, brown rice and whole wheat pasta.
• Choose healthier snacks that are low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sugar, sodium and calories. Some healthy ideas: unsalted nuts, unsalted rice cakes, graham crackers, fat-free or low-fat yogurt or frozen yogurt, plain air-popped popcorn, fresh fruit, or raw vegetables.

Other resources for help:
• The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute:
• The American Heart Association:
• The Center for Disease Control (CDC):

Remember, many people who have high blood pressure or prehypertension aren’t aware that they have this condition. Therefore, keep up with your checkups and screenings at your doctor’s office. When the doctor or nurse checks your blood pressure, write it down and keep a record of it. And if you’re concerned about lowering your blood pressure, make sure to address that with your doctor.