For people with normal blood pressure and no risk factors, a more modest goal of 2,400 mg daily, achievable by adopting the DASH diet alone, might help ward off the upward creep of blood pressure that tends to occur with age. That relatively low-sodium diet is packed with fruit, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products. People who also slash their sodium intake further—to around 1,500 milligrams daily, less than half the typical amount consumed by U.S. Because most sodium comes from processed, packaged, and restaurant foods and not just from the salt shaker, it's hard to cut back to that level without cooking from scratch most of the time and eating more fresh foods at home. For people with high blood pressure, those measures can sometimes reduce or even eliminate the need for drugs. The potassium in those foods, and possibly the calcium, too, appear to help control blood pressure. And they're essential if you already have even high-normal readings—anything over 130 mmHg systolic or 90 mmHg diastolic. Even if you don't have high blood pressure, it's important to take steps to keep it under control since it tends to get higher with age. Other steps include losing excess weight, exercising regularly, and drinking moderay, if at all, as shown in the table below. That's especially important if you're African-American or have a family history of the condition, since both sharply increase the risk of developing it. For example, research has found that the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) can be as effective as medication for some people with mild hypertension. adults— often see an even more significant drop in pressure.
Whether you take a diuretic alone or with other drugs, several steps can minimize the chance of side effects and increase the likelihood that you'll stick with the therapy:. And consult the table below, which describes some circumstances when those other classes of drugs can make sense. They're effective, safe, and available as low-cost generics. The first choice for many people is usually a diuretic, particularly thiazide diuretics. Still, many doctors routinely prescribe other drugs, including newer and much more expensive ones. But if you're otherwise healthy and your doctor recommends a drug other than a diuretic, ask why. And other drugs are sometimes necessary if a diuretic alone doesn't adequay lower blood pressure. For example, beta-blockers can make sense for people who have had a heart attack, and ACE inhibitors often work for those with diabetes. If healthy lifestyle changes alone don't adequay lower your blood pressure, or if your levels are very high, you should also consider medication. That can make sense for people who have health problems that can be worsened by diuretics, such as gout or kidney disease.
Source: Adapted from "The seventh report of the Joint National Committee on prevention, detection, evaluation and treatment of high blood pressure," the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
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Anything that makes them less supple—advancing age, a genetic predisposition, certain medication, and risk factors such as inactivity, obesity, and smoking, for example—can make blood pressure rise. Over time, that excessive pressure can damage blood vessels throughout the body, increasing the risk not only of heart attacks but also strokes, kidney damage, vision loss, arterial blockages in the legs, and sexual impotency. To improve accuracy:. If your initial reading is high, don't panic. In fact, it's a good idea to have it done during every visit to a health-care provider. And the extra pressure forces the heart to work harder, which can weaken the heart muscle and increase the risk of heart failure. To withstand that pressure, healthy arteries should be flexible. Your heart is a powerful muscle that pumps blood through your arteries. That's why you should have it checked at least once every two years, and more often if you're 50 or older or have other risk factors. A number of factors, including pain and emotional stress, can temporarily boost blood pressure. To help prevent those problems, it's important to detect high blood pressure early, before too much damage is done.
So talk with a doctor before increasing your intake. If you're considering them, first talk with your doctor. And too much of it, even from food, can cause problems for people with heart failure or kidney disease, and for those who take certain blood pressure drugs, including ACE inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), and potassium-sparing diuretics like spironolactone (Aldactone and generic). Some dietary supplements—including fish oil and co-enzyme Q-10 —might lower blood pressure a bit, according to the nonprofit Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. And some recent research suggests that too much calcium from supplements might increase the risk of heart disease and other health problems. Pharmacopeia, a nongovernmental authority. While a diet rich in potassium and possibly calcium can help control blood pressure, it's unclear if supplements have the same effect. If you decide to take one, choose a supplement labeled " USP Verified, " which means it meets standards for purity and potency set by the U.S. Still, the evidence for each is meager and all can cause side effects, especially if taken with blood-pressure drugs. As for potassium, the form in supplements (and salt substitutes) might not have the same effect as the kind in foods.
If your systolic (upper) level is 140 millimeters of mercury or higher, or your diastolic (lower level) is 90 mmHg or higher, your doctor should retest at least twice over the next several weeks to confirm the results. For more on what your blood pressure levels mean, see the box below.
Source: Adapted "The seventh report of the Joint National Committee on prevention, detection, evaluation and treatment of high blood pressure," the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
High blood pressure isn't diagnosed until your systolic pressure reaches 140 mmHg or your diastolic pressure reaches 90 mmHg. But even below those levels, the risk of a heart attack or stroke increases as pressure rises. The diastolic (lower) is the pressure when the heart rests between contractions. Blood pressure consists of two numbers, as in 120 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) over 80 mmHg. The systolic (upper) number is the pressure in the arteries when the heart contracts.
The table below shows how much you can lower your systolic (upper) blood pressure level by making these recommended changes. People who make multiple changes can expect even greater reductions.
But even in those instances, you should be vigilant because some doctors start with newer, heavily advertised drugs when a much less expensive class of medication—diuretics—are at least as safe and effective. That's unfortunate—and unnecessary. Yet one in five Americans with the problem don't know they have it. Even when they do, roughly half of the people with high blood pressure don't get it under control. Simple lifestyle changes often lower blood pressure significantly. than any other cause, and kills more people worldwide than smoking, diabetes, obesity, excessive drinking, or unsafe sex. That's partly because high blood pressure typically causes no obvious symptoms, but also because doctors don't always test those they should. When they don't, drugs usually can. High blood pressure triggers more heart attacks and strokes in the U.S.
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