Managing Prehypertension Without Medicines
If you have prehypertension, it means your blood pressure level is a little bit too
high. A healthy blood pressure level is below 120/80 mm Hg for most people. In certain
groups, such as older adults, target blood pressure may be different. About one-third
of the people in the U.S. have prehypertension. People with prehypertension have blood
pressure levels between 120/80 and 139/89 mm Hg. They are more likely to develop high
blood pressure (hypertension). That’s when your blood pressure level is 140/90 mm
Hg or greater.
Both hypertension and prehypertension can raise your risk for many health problems.
You are more likely to have a stroke, heart disease, kidney failure, and heart failure.
People with prehypertension often show early signs of stiffening of the arteries.
Studies have not shown that taking blood pressure medicine for prehypertension will
reduce your risk of developing hypertension. Therefore, lifestyle changes are the
best ways to prevent it.
Staying at a healthy weight is one of the best ways to lower your blood pressure without
taking medicine. But you can take other steps to beat this leading cause of heart
disease. These lifestyle changes can help keep your blood pressure in control.
Exercise your options
Exercise on a regular basis. Try to be more active during the day, even if you're
at a healthy weight. For example, pace while talking on the phone. Or play with your
children instead of watching from the sidelines.
Exercise can slightly lower your blood pressure. It can also help you lose weight,
even if you don't cut back on calories. People who exercise burn calories better than
those who don't exercise. Working out can also set the tone for other healthy habits.
People who exercise tend to eat healthier and not smoke. Good habits tend to cluster.
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet can help you lower your blood
pressure. It doesn't call for special foods. It provides a mixture of foods rich in
minerals and vitamins. It also limits the amount of saturated fats and cholesterol
you eat. It’s a plan that includes a certain number of servings from a variety of
Vegetables and fruits
Fat-free or low-fat milk
Seeds and nuts
Eat less sodium
Limit how much salt (sodium) you get each day to less than 2,300 milligrams (mg).
This can help lower systolic (first, or top number) blood pressure by up to 8 points.
Sodium is a common ingredient in prepared or canned foods. Reading food labels and
nutritional labels can help you keep track of how much sodium you eat each day.
Get more potassium
Adults in the U.S. don’t eat enough potassium. They should have 4,700 mg every day.
But they eat about 2,000 mg less than that. Eating enough potassium is linked to lower
To get more potassium in your diet and cut your risk for high blood pressure, try
to eat at least 2 servings daily of any of the following foods:
1 cup of cantaloupe (494 mg)
1 medium banana (450 mg)
8 ounces (1 cup) of orange juice (450 mg)
About 15 raw baby carrots (420 mg)
8 ounces (1 cup) of skim milk (405 mg)
6 ounces of nonfat yogurt (390 mg)
Some salt substitutes are a mix of salt and potassium. They can be a source of extra
potassium. They can also lower the sodium in your diet.
Raise your glass (in moderation)
If you drink, do so only in moderation. That means no more than 2 drinks daily if
you're a man and 1 if you're a woman. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, 4 or 5 ounces
of wine, or a single 1.5-ounce shot of 80-proof liquor. All supply about 0.5 ounces
People who drink moderate amounts of alcohol tend to have better heart health than
people who don’t drink. But a person who has 3 or more drinks a day often will have
a rise in blood pressure. People who have a family history of drinking problems or
addiction shouldn't drink at all.
Smoking only raises blood pressure when you're actually smoking. But if you smoke
20 to 30 times a day, the amount of time your blood pressure is raised because of
smoking quickly adds up. It’s a change that can put you at higher risk for heart disease
Smoking can be very unsafe for women who take birth control pills. The pill can raise
a woman’s blood pressure by 2 or 3 points no matter her age. If she already has blood
pressure that is a little high, being on the pill and smoking can lead to stroke.
That’s even true for women as young as age 20.
To play it safe, get your blood pressure checked every time you see your healthcare
provider. Check it at home on a regular basis, too. Keep a log of the readings to
share with your healthcare provider.