Normal blood pressure now doesn’t mean you won’t have a problem later.
In fact, even a healthy person with a normal blood pressure at age 55 has a 90 percent lifetime risk of developing hypertension. So anything you can do to control blood pressure and prevent hypertension is to your advantage.
The goal is to keep your blood pressure in the normal range, a systolic pressure of less than 120 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and a diastolic pressure of less than 80 mm Hg.
Simple lifestyle changes - such as what you eat, how active you are, and weight reduction - can influence your blood pressure and long-term health. The December issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter covers how lifestyle choices can help bring blood pressure numbers down.
- Achieve a healthy weight through diet and exercise. Even a modest weight loss can improve blood pressure. Result: For people with prehypertension, a systolic reading of 120 to 139 mm Hg, each kilogram lost (2.2 pounds) can reduce systolic and diastolic readings by 1 mm Hg.
- Limit sodium in your diet to no more than 1,500 to 2,400 milligrams per day. Result: Possible reduction in systolic pressure of 2 to 8 mm Hg.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet with lots of fruits, vegetables and reduced levels of saturated and total fat. Result: Possible reduction in systolic pressure of 8 to 14 mm Hg.
- Get regular physical activity. Aim to increase heart and breathing rates for at least 30 minutes most days. Result: Possible reduction in systolic pressure of 4 to 9 mm Hg.
- Limit alcoholic drinks to one a day for women and men over age 65 and two drinks a day for younger men. Result: Possible reduction in systolic pressure of 2.5 to 4 mm Hg.
If these efforts aren’t enough, talk with your doctor about treatment options - such as medication - that may be necessary to get blood pressure under control.
Revision date: June 14, 2011
Last revised: by Janet A. Staessen, MD, PhD