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May 20, 2013

Diet, Exercise Help Fight High Blood Pressure

Cutting back on alcohol and sodium consumption and being physically active are important steps in the prevention, treatment and management of hypertension.

According to the CDC, an estimated 68 million U.S. adults—roughly 1 in 3—have high blood pressure, also called hypertension. Because the condition is so common and because there are often no warning signs or symptoms, it’s called the “silent killer.” Since May is High Blood Pressure Education Month, let’s take time to understand the dangers of hypertension and what you can do to prevent, treat or manage the effects.

Blood pressure is the force of your blood as it circulates against the walls of your arteries. If your blood pressure is high (140/90 or higher), it essentially means your heart is on overdrive. There are several causes of hypertension, including: being overweight, drinking alcohol in excess, having a family history, eating too much sodium, aging, and being inactive. Over time, having high blood pressure increases your risk for heart disease and stroke and can weaken your heart, blood vessels, kidneys and other parts of your body.

So what steps can you take to lower your blood pressure? If you drink, you can start by limiting your alcohol intake (no more than 2 drinks a day for men, or 1 drink a day for women). You can also cut back on salt and salty foods in your diet.

The recommended daily amounts for sodium intake are 2,300 mg for most people and 1,500 mg for people with high blood pressure, diabetes, or who are older than 50. Most U.S. adults drastically exceed these amounts in their diets. Avoiding processed foods, making smart choices when eating out, and trying a diet such as DASH all can help limit your salt intake. Finally, beginning and maintaining an exercise routine can provide you with a doubly-strong defense against high blood pressure.

Physical activity is an important part of treating high blood pressure because it can help you lower your blood pressure and lose weight. While aiming for at least 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity five days a week is ideal, it doesn’t mean you have to start at that goal, especially if you haven’t exercised in a long time. Instead, start easy with 10 or 15 minutes a day and gradually build yourself up to 30 minutes daily. Whether it’s brisk walking or playing tennis, aerobic activity or muscle strengthening calisthenics, it’s all physical activity that will help lower your blood pressure. To come up with an exercise plan that you’ll enjoy and will keep you motivated, try exercising with a friend or loved one or sign up for classes at your local gym. For other exercise tips and resources, visit CardioSmart’s Move More homepage.

High Blood Pressure a Global Problem

(Click to view infographic)

Featured Video

Hypertension is another way to say "high blood pressure." A patient has hypertension if their readings are above 140 over 90. With medication, the right diet, and a few lifestyle changes, however, hypertension can be managed.


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