- Lose weight if you’re overweight.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, salt (sodium) and added sugars. Eat a variety of deeply-colored fruits and vegetables; fiber-rich whole grains; fat-free, 1 percent fat and low-fat dairy products; lean meats and skinless poultry; fish with healthy omega-3 fatty acids; and nuts, seeds, and legumes.
- Be more physically active.
- 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.
How can I lose weight?
If you’re overweight, you’re putting too much strain on your heart. Talk with your healthcare provider about a healthy eating plan. When you lose weight, your blood pressure often goes down! By eating a heart healthy diet low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, salt (sodium) and added sugars, you’ll help reduce your risk for heart attack and stroke.
How do I limit salt?
Eating a lot of salt (sodium) increases blood pressure in many people. It holds excess fluid in your body and puts an added burden on your heart. Your doctor may tell you to cut down on the salt you use in cooking and not add salt to foods. He or she may also tell you to avoid salt completely.
Read food labels so you’ll know which foods are high 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, 4 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?
An inactive lifestyle is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. It also tends to add to obesity, which is a risk factor for high blood pressure. 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 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) of vigorous-intensity, aerobic exercise each 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 treatment.
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?
- Talk to your doctor, nurse or other healthcare professionals. If you have heart disease or have had a stroke, members of your family also may be at higher risk. It’s very important for them to make changes now to lower their risk.
- Call 1-800-AHA-USA1 (1-800-242-8721), or visit heart.org to learn more about heart disease.
- For information on stroke, call 1-888-4-STROKE (1-888-478-7653) or visit us online at StrokeAssociation.org.
Knowledge is power, so Learn and Live!
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.
Can I drink any alcohol?
How often should my blood pressure be checked?
©2012, American Heart Association