How Can I Reduce High Blood Pressure?

Updated:Nov 17,2017
By treating high blood pressure, you can help reduce your risk for a stroke, heart attack, heart failure or kidney failure. Here are steps you can take now:
  • Reach and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet that is rich in in  vegetables, fruits, and whole grains and includes low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, legumes (beans and peas), nontropical vegetable oils and nuts; and limits intake of sodium, sweets, sugar sweetened beverages and red meats. Choose foods rich in potassium.
  • Be more physically active.
  • Don't smoke and avoid second-hand smoke.
  • Limit alcohol to no more than one drink per day for women or two drinks a day for men.
  • Take medicine the way your doctor tells you.
  • Know what your blood pressure should be and work to keep it at that level.

Many people have high blood pressure without knowing it. Once you know about your condition, though, you can reduce your risk and live a healthier life. It takes proper treatment and some changes in your lifestyle. But it’s worth it!

How can I lose weight?
In order to lose weight, you need to use up more calories than you eat and drink every day. Talk with your healthcare provider about a healthy eating and physical activity plan that will help you reach your weight loss goals. When you lose weight, your blood pressure often goes down!  An initial weight loss goal of at least 5 percent will help reduce your blood pressure.

How do I limit sodium?
Eating a lot of salt (sodium) increases blood pressure in many people.

Aim for an ideal limit of less than 1,500 mg per day of sodium.  Even cutting back by 1,000 mg a day can help improve your blood pressure and heart health.

Read food labels so you’ll know which foods are high in sodium. For example: foods with 140 mg or less sodium per serving are considered low in sodium.  And learn to use herbs and salt-free spices instead!

How do I limit alcohol?
Ask your doctor if you’re allowed to drink alcohol, and if so, how much. If you drink more than two drinks a day if you’re male or more than one drink a day if you’re female, it may add to high blood pressure. One drink is equal to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits or 1 ounce of 100-proof spirits. If cutting back on alcohol is hard for you to do on your own, ask about community groups that can help.

How can I be more active?
Regular physical activity helps to reduce blood pressure, control weight and reduce stress. It’s best to start slowly and do something you enjoy, like taking brisk walks or riding a bicycle.  Aim for at least  90 to 150 minutes of aerobic and/or dynamic resistance exercise per week and/or three sessions of isometric resistance exercises per week. Talk to your healthcare provider about a good plan for you.

What should I know about medicine?
Your doctors may prescribe different types of medicine for you. Don’t be discouraged if you need to take blood pressure medicine from now on. Sometimes you can take smaller doses after your blood pressure is under control, but you may always need some.

What’s most important is that you take your medicine exactly the way your doctor tells you to. Never stop treatment on your own. If you have problems or side effects with your medicine, talk to your doctor.

How can I learn more?

  1. Call 1-800-AHA-USA1 (1-800-242-8721), or visit heart.org to learn more about heart disease and stroke.
  2. Sign up to get Heart Insight, a free magazine for heart patients and their families, at heartinsight.org.
  3. Connect with others sharing similar journeys with heart disease and stroke by joining our Support Network at heart.org/supportnetwork.
We have many other fact sheets to help you make healthier choices to reduce your risk, manage disease or care for a loved one. Visit heart.org/answersbyheart to learn more.

Do you have questions or comments for the doctor or nurse?

Take a few minutes to write your questions for the next time you see your healthcare provider.
For example:

Can I drink any alcohol?

How often should my blood pressure be checked?

©2017, American Heart Association

Multi-language Fact Sheet Topics

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What Is Atrial Fibrillation?
What Do My Cholesterol Levels Mean?
How Can I Improve My Cholesterol?
What Are High Blood Cholesterol and Triglycerides?
What Is High Blood Pressure?
How Can I Reduce High Blood Pressure?
High Blood Pressure and Stroke
What Is Diabetes and How Can I Manage It?
How Can I Live With Heart Failure?
What Is Heart Failure?
What Is a Heart Attack?
How Will I Recover From My Heart Attack?
What Are the Warning Signs of Heart Attack?
What Are Heart Disease and Stroke?
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Hemorrhagic Stroke
Ischemic Stroke
Stroke, TIA and Warning Signs
What Are the Warning Signs of Stroke?
Stroke Risk Factors
Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Stroke
Stroke Diagnosis
Complications After Stroke
Changes Caused by Stroke
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Feeling Tired After a Stroke
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Stroke and Rehabilitation
Stroke Family Caregivers
How Should I Care for Myself as a Caregiver?

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Healthy Lifestyle and Risk Reduction
How Can I Manage My Weight?
How Can Physical Activity Become a Way of Life?
Why Should I Be Physically Active?
How Do I Follow a Healthy Diet?
How Can I Cook Healthfully?
Why Should I Limit Sodium?
How Do I Understand "Nutrition Facts" Labels?
How Can I Quit Smoking?
How Can I Manage Stress?
How Can I Make My Lifestyle Healthier?
How Can I Monitor My Cholesterol, Blood Pressure and Weight?