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How To Lower Your Blood Pressure

December 3, 2020

According to the American Heart Association, nearly 103 million people in the United States have high blood pressure (hypertension). Another 108 million have prehypertension, which is blood pressure that is slightly higher than normal, which makes them more likely to develop high blood pressure.

Hypertension increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Heart disease remains the No. 1 killer among American men and women. Stroke is the No. 5 cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States.

So, let’s look at some ways to lower blood pressure and decrease your risk of health problems in the future.

Who Has High Blood Pressure?

Guidelines published in 2018 redefined high blood pressure as a reading of 130 on top or 80 on the bottom. The standard used to be 140 over 90. The percentage of U.S. adults with high blood pressure jumped from 32% under the old definition to nearly 46%.

In the United States, high blood pressure is more common among Blacks than whites. African American men and women have higher rates of high blood pressure than any other race or ethnic group. About 44% of Black women have high blood pressure. Mexican-Americans have the lowest level of hypertension compared to non-Hispanic whites.

High Blood Pressure and Salt

A diet high in sodium (salt) increases the risk of higher blood pressure. Most people eat more than double the amount of salt than they should. About 77% of the sodium Americans consume comes from processed and restaurant foods.

The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that Americans consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day as part of a healthy eating pattern.  At the same time, you should be eating healthier foods, such as fruits and vegetables. Speak with your doctor about ways you can lose weight.

However, you should consume no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day if you:

  • Are 51 years of age or older
  • Are an African American
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Are diabetic
  • Have chronic kidney disease

What You Can Do

Fortunately, it’s never too late to make changes that will help to keep your blood pressure in check. Things you can do include:

  • Have your blood pressure checked regularly.
  • Maintain normal body weight.  New research shows maintaining a healthy weight is a good way to keep your blood pressure under control. Researchers say those who maintain an optimal body weight are 41% less likely to have increased blood pressure as they age.
  • Take at least one brisk 10-minute walk, 3 times a day, 5 days a week.
  • Follow a healthy eating plan of a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low in sodium.
  • Quit smoking.
  • If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation (no more than 2 drinks per day for men and no more than 1 drink per day for women).
  • If you have high blood pressure and are prescribed medication(s), take as directed.

You can start putting your strategy together with our guide titled “Know Your Numbers: Blood Pressure.” It includes an easy-to-read chart of blood pressure numbers, so you’ll always know where you stand.

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