At a glance......
- 1 Types of Hypertension
- 1.1 Prehypertension
- 1.2 Malignant Hypertension
- 1.3 Pulmonary Hypertension
- 1.4 Portal Hypertension
- 2 Causes of Hypertension
- 3 Causes by Stress
- 4 Causes by Weight
- 5 Causes by Alcohol
- 6 Causes by Caffeine
- 7 Causes by Medication
- 8 Symptoms of Hypertension
- 9 Diagnosis of Hypertension
- 10 Treatment of Hypertension
- 10.1 Beta-blockers Medication
- 10.2 ACE Inhibitors Medication
- 10.3 Diuretics
- 10.4 Beta-blockers
- 10.5 Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
- 10.6 Angiotensin II receptor blockers
- 10.7 Calcium channel blockers
- 10.8 Alpha-blockers
- 10.9 Alpha-beta-blockers
- 10.10 Alpha-2 receptor agonists
- 10.11 Central agonists
- 10.12 Peripheral adrenergic inhibitors
- 10.13 Vasodilators
- 10.14 Renin/angiotensin system antagonists
- 10.15 Alpha-adrenoceptor antagonists
- 10.16 Centrally acting sympathomimetics
- 10.17 Other vasodilators
- 11 Lifestyle and home remedies
- 12 Health Tips for hypertension
- 13 References
Hypertension is high blood pressure, a very common condition in older adults. Blood pressure is the physical force exerted by the blood as it pushes against the walls of the arteries. Blood pressure readings are written in two numbers separated by a line. The top number represents the systolic blood pressure and the bottom number represents the diastolic pressure. The systolic blood pressure is the pressure in the arteries as the heart contracts pushing the blood forward. The diastolic pressure is the pressure in the arteries as the heart relaxes.
Hypertension is defined as the average systolic blood pressure (SBP) or diastolic blood pressure (DBP) that is at or above the 95th percentile for gender, age, and height on three or more occasions. Stage I hypertension is more than 95% to 99% plus 5 mm Hg, and stage II hypertension is more than 99% plus 5 mm Hg. Prehypertension (formerly designated high normal BP) is defined as SBP or DBP levels that are more than the 90th percentile but less than the 95th percentile. White‐coat hypertension refers to patients with BP levels at or above the 95th percentile in a physician’s office or clinic but who are normotensive outside the clinical setting
Normal blood pressure is below 120/80, blood pressure between 120/80 and 139/89 is pre-hypertension and blood pressure 140/90 or above is considered hypertension. An elevated blood pressure means that the heart must work harder to pump blood. High blood pressure can also damage the walls of the arteries. Over time, hypertension increases the risk of heart disease, kidney disease, and stroke. It is estimated that one in three adults in America are affected by hypertension.
High blood pressure is more common in older people. At age 45, more men have hypertension than women. By age 65, this is reversed and more women are affected. People with diabetes have a greater risk of hypertension than those without diabetes. Having a close family member with high blood pressure also increases your risk of developing it. About 60% of all people with diabetes also have hypertension.
Prehypertension means that your blood pressure falls just above the normal level, corresponding to a systolic pressure between 120 and 139 or a diastolic pressure of 80 to 89. About one-fourth of Americans have prehypertension, and they have two times the risk of heart disease compared with those who have lower blood pressures. Lifestyle changes can help many people with prehypertension lower their blood pressure.
Factors that increase your blood pressure can cause prehypertension. Medications such as birth control pills, cold remedies, decongestants, over-the-counter pain relievers, and some prescription drugs may cause a temporary rise in blood pressure. The buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries (atherosclerosis) can also lead to prehypertension. Other conditions that may lead to prehypertension include the following:
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Kidney disease
- Adrenal disease
- Thyroid disease
There are no symptoms caused by prehypertension. The only way to keep track of your blood pressure is to visit your doctor regularly and have your blood pressure checked.
You are considered to have hypertension if your blood pressure measurements are 140/90 or higher, for either of the two numbers. At this level of blood pressure you may not have any symptoms. When blood pressure reaches 180/110 or higher, a serious condition known as a malignant hypertension may occur. This can lead to stroke, kidney damage, heart attacks, or loss of consciousness. If you measure your blood pressure and it is this high, rest a few minutes and measure again. If it remains high, call 911.
Malignant Hypertension Causes
High blood pressure is the main cause of malignant hypertension. Skipping doses of blood pressure medications can also lead to malignant hypertension. The following are medical conditions that may cause malignant hypertension:
- Kidney disease
- Collagen vascular disease
- Spinal cord injuries
- Tumor of the adrenal gland
- Birth control pills
- Illegal drugs (cocaine)
Malignant Hypertension Symptoms
The primary symptoms of malignant hypertension is a blood pressure of 180/120 or higher and signs of organ damage. Other symptoms of malignant hypertension include bleeding and swelling of blood vessels in the retina, anxiety, nosebleeds, severe headache, and shortness of breath. Malignant hypertension may cause brain swelling, but this symptom is very rare.
Abnormally elevated pressure in the pulmonary circulation is referred to as pulmonary hypertension. This condition affects the arteries in the lungs and the right side of the heart.
Pulmonary Hypertension Causes
Pulmonary hypertension is caused by changes in the cells that line the pulmonary arteries. These changes cause the walls of the arteries to become stiff and thick, extra tissue may also form. This can reduce or block blood flow through the blood vessels. Increased blood pressure is then caused because it is harder for blood to flow. Pulmonary hypertension can be an associated condition with scleroderma, sarcoidosis, pulmonary embolism, and dermatomyositis.
Pulmonary Hypertension Symptoms
Symptoms of pulmonary hypertension may not present themselves for months or years. Later on, symptoms become worse. Symptoms of pulmonary hypertension may include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain or pressure
- Swelling in the ankles, legs, and abdomen
- Bluish color to the lips and skin
- Racing pulse or heart palpitations
The portal venous system contains veins coming from the stomach, intestine, spleen, and pancreas. These veins merge into the portal vein, which branches into smaller vessels and travel through the liver. Portal hypertension occurs when there is an increase in the blood pressure within the portal venous system. When the vessels in the liver are blocked due to liver damage, blood cannot flow properly through the liver. This causes high blood pressure in the portal system.
Portal Hypertension Causes
Cirrhosis of the liver is the most common cause of portal hypertension. In cirrhosis, the scar tissue (from the healing of liver injury caused by hepatitis, alcohol, or other liver damage) blocks the flow of blood through the liver. Blood clots in the portal vein, blockages of the veins that carry blood from the liver to the heart, parasitic infection (schistosomiasis), and focal nodular hyperplasia are also causes of portal hypertension.
Portal Hypertension Symptoms
Symptoms of portal hypertension include the following:
- Gastrointestinal bleeding, which can cause black, tarry stools or blood in stools, or vomiting of blood
- Ascites (fluid in the abdomen)
- Encephalopathy or confusion
- Reduced levels of platelets (blood cells that help form blood clots)
High Blood Pressure in Children
Although it’s most common in older adults, hypertension can also affect children. The normal blood pressure for a child is dependent upon the child’s age, gender, and height. Your doctor can tell if your child’s blood pressure is abnormal. Children are at higher risk for hypertension if they are overweight, African-American, or if they have a family history of the condition. Children with high blood pressure may benefit from the DASH diet and taking medications. Children with high blood pressure should also maintain a healthy weight and avoid tobacco smoke.
African-Americans are at greater risk of developing hypertension than people of other races. African-Americans develop high blood pressure earlier in life and have more difficulty achieving blood pressure goals. Some studies suggest that African-Americans may be more sensitive to salt than other races. For those who are genetically prone to salt sensitivity, a small amount (half-teaspoon) of salt can raise blood pressure by 5 mm Hg. Dietary factors and being overweight can also raise blood pressure.
Sodium, a chemical found in salt, raises blood pressure by promoting the retention of fluid by the body. This increases the workload on the heart. The American Heart Association recommends an upper daily limit for sodium consumption of 1,500 mg. Checking food labels and menus can help you calculate how much sodium you are consuming. Processed foods are particularly high in sodium and make up about 75% of our sodium intake. Among these, lunch meats and canned soups have some of the highest levels of dietary sodium.
Stress leads to temporary elevations of blood pressure, but there is no proof that stress causes ongoing high blood pressure. Stress may have an indirect effect on blood pressure since it can influence other risk factors for heart disease. People who are under stress tend to engage more in unhealthy habits like poor nutrition, alcohol use, and smoking, all of which can play a role in the development of high blood pressure and heart disease.
Being overweight increases the risk of getting hypertension and increases the workload required of your heart. Diets designed to control blood pressure are often designed to reduce calories as well. Most of these diets require decreasing consumption of fatty foods and sugars while increasing your intake of lean protein, fiber, fruits, and vegetables. A weight loss of just 10 pounds can make a significant difference in your blood pressure.
Drinking too much alcohol is a risk factor for high blood pressure. The American Heart Association guidelines recommend the consumption of no more than two alcoholic drinks per day for men and no more than one drink a day for women. One drink is defined as one 12-ounce beer, 4 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits, or 1 ounce of 100-proof spirits. Adults who consume more than three drinks in one sitting temporarily increase their blood pressure. However, binge drinking can lead to long-term increased blood pressure.
Caffeine can bring on the jitters, but there is no evidence that it can cause long-term hypertension. However, a caffeinated beverage might bring on a temporary rise in blood pressure. It is possible that caffeine could block a hormone that helps keep arteries widened, which causes blood pressure to rise. It is also possible that caffeine causes adrenal glands to release more adrenaline, causing blood pressure to increase. The exact reason why caffeine causes increased blood pressure is unknown.
Certain medications contain ingredients that can elevate blood pressure. Cold and flu medications that contain decongestants are one example of drugs that raise blood pressure. Other kinds of medicines that can raise blood pressure are steroids, diet pills, birth control pills, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), pain relief medications, and some antidepressants. Talk to your doctor about the medications or supplements you are taking that might affect your blood pressure.
|Leisure-Time Physical Activity||Activities that one participates in during their free time that results in substantial energy expenditure. These activities include structured exercise as well as walking, hiking, gardening, sport, and dance.|
|Occupational Physical Activity||Activities that are associated with the performance of a job which might include might include walking, hauling, lifting, pushing, carpentry, shoveling, and packing boxes.|
|Sedentary Behavior||Lack of physical activity. Refers to activities that do not increase energy expenditure above the resting level and has been operationally defined as activities with energy expenditures ≤ 1.5 METs while in a sitting or reclined posture (e.g. sleeping, watching television, video gaming, computer use).|
|Aerobic Exercise||A form of exercise that involves the use of large muscle groups to perform repetitive activities that result in increases in heart rate and energy expenditure (e.g. walking; cycling).|
|Resistance Training||A form of exercise designed to improve muscular strength and/or endurance wherein physical effort is performed against an opposing force that elicits resistance to induce muscular contraction, typically at a high intensity of effort for a short duration of time (e.g. weight lifting).|
|Cardiorespiratory Fitness||The ability of the circulatory and respiratory systems to supply oxygen during sustained physical activity.|
|Muscular Strength||The amount of external force that a skeletal muscle can exert.|
|Muscular Endurance||The ability of muscle groups to exert external force for many repetitions or successive exertions.|
Symptoms of Hypertension
Hypertension may not produce any symptoms, even if you have had it for years. That’s why it is sometimes referred to as a “silent killer.” It’s estimated that 1 out of every 5 people with high blood pressure aren’t aware that they have this major risk factor for strokes and heart attacks. If not properly treated, high blood pressure can damage the heart and circulation, lungs, brain, and kidneys without causing noticeable symptoms. Symptoms of high blood pressure may be present in those who have an extremely high blood pressure. Symptoms of extremely high blood pressure include the following:
- Severe headaches
- Vision problems
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Irregular heartbeat
- Blood in the urine
- Pounding in the chest, neck, or ears
Diagnosis of Hypertension
How a blood pressure test works
- A blood pressure reading is taken with a pressure cuff (sphygmomanometer).
- During the test, the cuff is placed around the upper arm before being manually or electronically inflated.
- Once inflated, the cuff compresses the brachial artery, momentarily stopping blood flow.
- Next, air in the cuff is slowly released while the person performing the measurement listens with a stethoscope or monitors an electronic readout.
Watch an interactive animation of a manual blood pressure test, including the sounds that a medical professional hears as the blood moves through the brachial artery in your arm.
Your blood pressure reading is recorded as two numbers:
- Systolic blood pressure (the top number) — indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls during heartbeats.
- Diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) — indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls while the heart is resting between beats.
- If your blood pressure is normal (less than 120/80 mm Hg), your blood pressure should be screened during regular healthcare visits at least once every two years for anyone 20 years of age or older.
If your blood pressure reading is higher than normal
- Your doctor may take several readings over time and/or have you monitor your blood pressure at home before diagnosing you with high blood pressure.
- A single high reading does not mean that you have high blood pressure. But, if your readings continue to stay high, your doctor will most likely want you to begin a treatment program.
If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure
- Your doctor may recommend monitoring your blood pressure numbers at home in addition to your regular healthcare visits.
- Your doctor will also likely recommend a treatment plan that includes lifestyle changes and, if needed, prescription medication.
- If the clinic blood pressure is 140/90 mmHg or higher, offer ambulatory blood pressure monitoring (ABPM) to confirm the diagnosis of hypertension.
- When using ABPM to confirm a diagnosis of hypertension, ensure that at least two measurements per hour are taken during the person’s usual waking hours (for example, between 08:00 and 22:00).
Use the average value of at least 14 measurements taken during the person’s usual waking hours to confirm a diagnosis of hypertension.
When using home blood pressure monitoring (HBPM) to confirm a diagnosis of hypertension, ensure that
- for each blood pressure recording, two consecutive measurements are taken, at least 1 minute apart and with the person seated and
- blood pressure is recorded twice daily, ideally in the morning and evening and
- blood pressure recording continues for at least 4 days, ideally for 7 days.Discard the measurements taken on the first day and use the average value of all the remaining measurements to confirm a diagnosis of hypertension.
Dietary changes can help control blood pressure. One diet designed to promote lower blood pressure is known as the DASH diet. This stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The DASH diet recommends eating more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, nuts, and fish. Red meat, saturated fats, and sweets should be avoided. The DASH diet can lower blood pressure within 2 weeks. It can also help to reduce your intake of sodium. The following is the DASH diet suggested daily intake:
- 7-8 servings of grain
- 4-5 servings of vegetables
- 4-5 servings of fruits
- 2-3 servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy products
- 2-3 servings of fats and oils
- 2 or less servings of meat, poultry, and fish
On the DASH diet, nuts, seeds, and dry beans should be limited to 4-5 servings per week. Sweets should be limited to less than 5 servings per week.
High blood pressure drugs
Beta-blockers are another drug used to treat hypertension. They block the effects of the sympathetic nervous system on the heart. This reduces the workload of the heart by requiring less blood and oxygen, which slows the heart rate. They can be used to treat other conditions as well, including abnormal heart rate (arrhythmia).
Beta-Blocker Side Effects
Side effects of beta-blockers can include the following:
- Cold feet and hands
- Erectile dysfunction
- Slow heartbeat
- Edema (swelling in ankles, feet, or legs)
- Trouble breathing
ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors are another class of antihypertensive drugs. They reduce the body’s levels of angiotensin II, a substance that narrows blood vessels. This means that arteries are more open (dilated) and the blood pressure is lower. ACE inhibitors can be used alone, or with other medications such as diuretics. Side effects of ACE inhibitors can include skin rash, dry cough, dizziness, and elevated potassium levels. Women who are pregnant, planning to get pregnant, or breastfeeding should not take ACE inhibitors.
Diuretics, sometimes called water pills, help the kidneys get rid of excess water and salt (sodium). This reduces the volume of blood that needs to pass through the blood vessels, and as a result, blood pressure goes down. There are three major types of diuretics defined by how they work. They include:
- thiazide diuretics (Hygroton, Diuril, Lasix)
- potassium-sparing diuretics (Midamor, Aldactone, Durenium)
- loop diuretics (bumetanide, furosemide)
- combination diuretics, which include more than one variety used together
Diuretics in the thiazide group generally have fewer side effects than the others, particularly when taken at the low doses generally used in treating early high blood pressure.
Beta-blockers help the heart beat with less speed and force. The heart pumps less blood through the blood vessels and blood pressure decreases. There are many drugs within this classification, including:
- acebutolol (Sectral)
- betaxolol (Kerlone)
- metoprolol tartrate (Lopressor)
- metoprolol succinate (Toprol-XL)
- penbutolol sulfate (Levatol)
Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
ACE inhibitors help the body produce less of a hormone called angiotensin II, which causes blood vessels to narrow. These medications decrease blood pressure by helping blood vessels expand and let more blood through. Some ACE inhibitors include:
- benazepril hydrochloride (Lotensin)
- captopril (Capoten)
- enalapril maleate (Vasotec)
- fosinopril sodium (Monopril)
- lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril)
Angiotensin II receptor blockers
This class of drugs also protects the blood vessels from angiotensin II. To tighten blood vessels, the hormone must bind with a receptor site on the blood vessels. These medications keep that from happening. Consequently, blood pressure falls. Angiotensin II receptor blockers include:
- candesartan (Atacand)
- eprosartan mesylate (Teveten)
- irbesartan (Avapro)
- losartan potassium (Cozaar)
- telmisartan (Micardis)
- valsartan (Diovan)
Calcium channel blockers
Movement of calcium into and out of muscle cells is necessary for all muscle contractions. Calcium channel blockers keep calcium from entering the smooth muscle cells of the heart and blood vessels. This makes the heart beat less forcefully and helps blood vessels relax. As a result, blood pressure decreases. Examples of these medications include:
- amlodipine besylate (Norvasc, Lotrel)
- felodipine (Plendil)
- isradipine (DynaCirc, DynaCirc CR)
- verapamil hydrochloride (Calan SR, Covera-HS, Isoptin SR, Verelan)
Your body produces a type of hormone called catecholamine when under stress, or chronically in some disease states. Catecholamine, along with norepinephrine and epinephrine, cause the heart to beat faster and with more force. And they constrict blood vessels. These effects raise blood pressure, and occur when these hormones attach to a receptor.
The muscles around some blood vessels have what are known as alpha adrenergic receptors. When catecholamine binds to an alpha receptor, the muscle contracts, the blood vessel narrows, and blood pressure rises.
Alpha-blockers prevent binding to alpha receptors, so blood is able to flow through the blood vessels more freely, and blood pressure falls. These drugs include:
- doxazosin mesylate (Cardura)
- prazosin hydrochloride (Minipress)
- terazosin hydrochloride (Hytrin)
Alpha-beta-blockers have a combined effect. They block the binding of catecholamine hormones to both alpha and beta receptors. They can decrease the constriction of blood vessels like alpha-blockers, and slow down the rate and force of the heartbeat like beta-blockers. Carvedilol (Coreg) and labetalol hydrochloride (Normodyne) are common alpha-beta-blockers.
Alpha-2 receptor agonists
Like other alpha-blockers, these drugs reduce activity in the sympathetic nervous system, which decreases blood pressure. The main biologic difference between them and other alpha-blockers is they target only one type of alpha receptor.
They are a first choice treatment during pregnancy because they generally pose few risks for the mother and fetus. Methyldopa (Aldomet) is a common form of this type of drug.
These medications keep the brain from sending messages to the nervous system that would release catecholamines and speed up heart rate and tighten blood vessels. The heart doesn’t pump as hard and blood flows more easily, so blood pressure decreases. These include:
- alpha methyldopa (Aldomet)
- clonidine hydrochloride (Catapres)
- guanabenz acetate (Wytensin)
- guanfacine hydrochloride (Tenex)
Peripheral adrenergic inhibitors
This group of drugs works to block certain chemical messengers inside the brain, which keeps the smooth muscles from getting the message to constrict. These medications are generally used only if other medications aren’t effective. They include:
- guanadrel (Hylorel)
- guanethidine monosulfate (Ismelin)
- reserpine (Serpasil)
Vasodilators relax the muscles in the walls of blood vessels, especially small arteries (arterioles). This widens the blood vessels and allows blood to flow through them more easily. Blood pressure falls as a result. Hydralazine hydrochloride (Apresoline) and minoxidil (Loniten) are examples of these.
Renin/angiotensin system antagonists
Angiotensin is a potent vasoconstrictor, but also increases the activity of the sympathetic nervous system by both central and peripheral mechanisms. Fortunately, the renin-angiotensin system provides a series of targets for pharmacological attack by ACEIs, angiotensin type 1 receptor blockers (ARBs), and aldosterone antagonists (spironolactone). ACEIs and ARBs tend to be well tolerated and have few contraindications, the most important of which is renal artery stenosis. It is important to monitor renal function and potassium levels during initiation and maintenance of these agents. ACEIs are contraindicated in women of child-bearing potential and may cause a troublesome cough through their inhibition of the enzyme responsible for bradykinin degradation. First-dose hypotension can be a problem in elderly patients on diuretics, although newer, longer-acting formulations have reduced this concern. ACEIs are lipid-neutral, improve insulin resistance, and may be able to induce regression of LVH.
Alpha1-antagonists (such as doxazosin and prazosin) are becoming more widely used in the treatment of hypertension. They have a good side-effect profile (palpitations and occasional postural hypotension). In addition, they are reported to have beneficial effects on lipid profile and insulin resistance and lack the negative effects on the sexual potency of other antihypertensives, which is a particular advantage for diabetics. They work to reduce total peripheral resistance by blocking the sympathetic activation of α1-receptors on resistance vessels.
Centrally acting sympathomimetics
Clonidine and α-methyldopa, centrally acting α2-adrenoceptor agonists, were once popular choices, but are now less widely initiated outside specialist scenarios such as pre-eclampsia. They carry a risk of rebound hypertension on withdrawal.
Other vasodilators, such as hydralazine and the very potent minoxidil, are mostly used in resistant hypertension when standard agents fail. Use of the latter is generally restricted by unpleasant side effects such as hypertrichosis.
Imidazoline type 1 receptor agonists
The identification of imidazoline receptors has revealed that the effects of older agents on the central nervous system reflect a relatively nonspecific central site of action mediated primarily through α2-adrenoceptor agonism (see Figure 2). It seems that some of the adverse effects of these agents, which are also mediated through this pathway, can be avoided by the use of selective imidazoline type 1 receptor agents. Early results suggest these agents are well tolerated, with a dry mouth being the only frequently reported unwanted effect (13% at 3 weeks, 2% at 12 months).
Lifestyle and home remedies
Lifestyle changes can help you control and prevent high blood pressure, even if you’re taking blood pressure medication. Here’s what you can do:
- Eat healthy foods – Eat a heart-healthy diet. Try the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, poultry, fish and low-fat dairy foods. Get plenty of potassium, which can help prevent and control high blood pressure. Eat less saturated fat and trans fat.
- Decrease the salt in your diet – Aim to limit sodium to less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day or less. However, a lower sodium intake — 1,500 mg a day or less — is ideal for most adults.While you can reduce the amount of salt you eat by putting down the saltshaker, you generally should also pay attention to the amount of salt that’s in the processed foods you eat, such as canned soups or frozen dinners.
- Maintain a healthy weight – Keeping a healthy weight, or losing weight if you’re overweight or obese, can help you control your high blood pressure and lower your risk of related health problems. In general, you may reduce your blood pressure by about 1 mm Hg with each kilogram (about 2.2 pounds) of weight you lose.
- Increase physical activity – Regular physical activity can help lower your blood pressure, manage stress, reduce your risk of several health problems and keep your weight under control.Aim for at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. For example, try brisk walking for about 30 minutes most days of the week. Or try interval training, in which you alternate short bursts of intense activity with short recovery periods of lighter activity. Aim to do muscle-strengthening exercises at least two days a week.
- Limit alcohol – Even if you’re healthy, alcohol can raise your blood pressure. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women, and up to two drinks a day for men. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.
- Don’t smoke – Tobacco can injure blood vessel walls and speed up the process of buildup of plaque in the arteries. If you smoke, ask your doctor to help you quit.
- Manage stress – Reduce stress as much as possible. Practice healthy coping techniques, such as muscle relaxation, deep breathing or meditation. Getting regular physical activity and plenty of sleep can help, too.
- Monitor your blood pressure at home –Home blood pressure monitoring can help you keep closer tabs on your blood pressure, show if medication is working, and even alert you and your doctor to potential complications. Home blood pressure monitoring isn’t a substitute for visits to your doctor, and home blood pressure monitors may have some limitations. Even if you get normal readings, don’t stop or change your medications or alter your diet without talking to your doctor first. If your blood pressure is under control, check with your doctor about how often you need to check it.
- Practice relaxation or slow, deep breathing – Practice taking deep, slow breaths to help relax. There are some devices available that promote slow, deep breathing. According to the American Heart Association, device-guided breathing may be a reasonable nondrug option for lowering blood pressure, especially when anxiety accompanies high blood pressure or standard treatments aren’t well-tolerated.
- Control blood pressure during pregnancy – If you’re a woman with high blood pressure, discuss with your doctor how to control your blood pressure during pregnancy.
Health Tips for hypertension
Lifestyle changes are important for both treatment and prevention of high blood pressure, and they can be as effective as a drug treatment. These lifestyle changes can also have wider benefits for heart health and overall health.6
The lifestyle measures shown to reduce blood pressure and recommended by experts include:6
- Salt restriction – typical salt intake is between 9 and 12 g a day and modest blood pressure reductions can be achieved even in people with normal levels by lowering salt to around 5 g a day – the greatest effects are seen in people with hypertension
- Moderation of alcohol consumption – expert guidelines say moving from moderate to excessive drinking is “associated both with raised blood pressure and with an increased risk of stroke”
- High consumption of vegetables and fruits and low-fat – people with, or at risk of, high blood pressure are advised to minimize intake of saturated fat and total fat and to eat whole-grain, high-fibre foods, at least 300 g of fruit and vegetables a day, beans, pulses, and nuts, and omega-3-rich fish twice a week
- Reducing weight and maintaining it – hypertension is closely correlated with excess body weight, and weight reduction is followed by a fall in blood pressure
- Regular physical exercise – guidelines say “hypertensive patients should participate in at least 30 min of moderate-intensity dynamic aerobic exercise (walking, jogging, cycling or swimming) on 5 to 7 days a week”
- Stress reduction – avoiding sources of stress, where possible, and developing healthy coping strategies for managing unavoidable stress can help with blood pressure control, especially as many people turn to alcohol, drugs, smoking, and unhealthy foods or overeating to cope with stress.
Exercise is another lifestyle factor that can lower blood pressure. It’s recommended that adults get about 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise. This can include cardiovascular exercises such as walking, bicycling, gardening, or another aerobic exercise. Muscle-strengthening activities are recommended at least twice a week and stretching makes you more flexible and helps prevent injuries. Check with your doctor if you are currently inactive and want to start exercising. Make exercise fun by doing activities you enjoy or find an exercise buddy to join you!