High blood pressure - get the facts

High blood pressure is a leading cause of stroke and a key risk factor for heart attack and heart disease

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Considering that nearly half of all U.S. adults have high blood pressure, it’s a common health condition that many people should know more about. In many cases, people with high blood pressure don’t feel any symptoms. Yet, high blood pressure can injure arteries, limit blood flow, and cause organ damage. In fact, high blood pressure is a leading cause of stroke and a key risk factor for heart attack and heart disease.

Health disparities for high blood pressure also exist across racial and ethnic groups. For example, African Americans age 35 to 64 are 50% more likely to be diagnosed with high blood pressure compared to white Americans. These factors should be taken into account when assessing high blood pressure risk.

The good news is that high blood pressure can be managed, and even prevented for some, by taking a few healthy steps.

How can high blood pressure be prevented?

Some people are able to prevent high blood pressure through healthy lifestyle changes. Sticking with changes can take time – but hard work pays off. It can help to get support from a doctor or friends and family. Some people benefit from starting slowly and trying one change at a time.

Lifestyle changes may include:

Moving more

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends exercising at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week. But know shorter sessions count, too! Check with a doctor before starting a new exercise routine. 

Eating a healthy diet that is low in sodium

A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and low in sodium may help reduce blood pressure.

Maintaining a healthy weight

Being overweight can increase risk of high blood pressure. A doctor can provide guidance for those who may need to lose weight. 

Limiting alcohol intake 

People who drink alcohol may want to consider limiting their consumption. The American Heart Association recommends no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.

Quitting smoking 

It’s never too late to quit smoking. In fact, research suggests quitting can add up to 10 years to one’s life expectancy.

Getting adequate sleep 

Sleep keeps the heart and blood vessels healthy. Most adults need at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. Adopting healthy sleep habits can help. Those with sleep disorders may want to consider working with a doctor.

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Page last updated: 6/15/2021