Controlling Your Blood Pressure

An alarming one in three American adults has high blood pressure. Known medically as hypertension, many people don't even know they have it, because high blood pressure has no symptoms or warning signs. But when elevated blood pressure is accompanied by abnormal cholesterol and blood sugar levels, the damage to your arteries, kidneys, and heart accelerates exponentially. Fortunately, high blood pressure is easy to detect and treat. In the Special Health Report, Controlling Your Blood Pressure, find out how to keep blood pressure in a healthy range simply by making lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, increasing activity, and eating more healthfully.

Controlling Your Blood Pressure Cover

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An alarming one in three American adults has high blood pressure. Known medically as hypertension, many people don't even know they have it, because high blood pressure has no symptoms or warning signs. But when elevated blood pressure is accompanied by abnormal cholesterol and blood sugar levels, the damage to your arteries, kidneys, and heart accelerates exponentially. Fortunately, high blood pressure is easy to detect and treat. Sometimes people can keep blood pressure in a healthy range simply by making lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, increasing activity, and eating more healthfully. This report details those changes, including a Special Section that features numerous ways to cut excess salt from your diet — a policy strongly recommended by new federal guidelines. This report also includes tips on how to use a home blood pressure monitor, as well as advice on choosing a drug treatment strategy based your age and any other existing medical issues you may have.

Prepared by the editors of Harvard Health Publishing in consultation with Randall M. Zusman, M.D., Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Director, Hypertension Section, Division of Cardiology, Massachusetts General Hospital. 53 pages. (2018)

Blood pressure basics

  • Understanding the numbers
  • How blood pressure changes

Types of hypertension

  • Essential hypertension
  • Secondary hypertension
  • White-coat hypertension
  • Masked hypertension
  • Labile hypertension
  • Resistant hypertension
  • Malignant hypertension
  • Hypertension during pregnancy

Are you at risk for high blood pressure?

  • Risk factors you can’t change
  • Controllable risk factors

How high blood pressure harms your health

  • Stroke
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Dementia
  • Kidney disease
  • Eye damage

Diagnosing high blood pressure

  • Measuring blood pressure
  • Monitoring blood pressure at home

Lifestyle changes to lower your blood pressure

  • Quit smoking
  • Attain a healthy weight
  • Follow a healthful diet
  • Be active
  • Stress less

SPECIAL BONUS SECTION: Conquering your salt habit

  • Strategies for cutting back on salt

Medications for lowering blood pressure

  • Classes of drugs to lower high blood pressure
  • The right drug for the right person

Resources

Glossary

Salt swaps
Because salt-laden restaurant fare and processed foods are by far the biggest sources of salt in our diets, eating home-cooked foods is the most effectivestrategy for cutting back. In the kitchen, swapping regular salt for sodium-free or lower-sodium alternatives can help. Here are some options.

Lemon, lime, vinegar
Instead of salt, try fresh lemon juice, lime juice, or flavored vinegars to brighten taste.

Herb and spice blends
Many people like salt-free herb and spice blends, which come in more than a dozen different flavors.Popular brands include Mrs. Dash, Penzeys salt-free spice blends, or salt-free Spike. You can also make your own blend by mixing the following:

  • 1 teaspoon each of dried basil, oregano, marjoram, thyme, and dill
  • ¼ teaspoon each of savory, sage, onion powder, and garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon of powdered ginger.

No-sodium salts
Potassium-based salt substitutes, such as AlsoSalt, Morton Salt Substitute, NoSalt, and Nu-Salt, are a good option for many people, especially since increasing your potassium intake can help lower blood pressure. But people who have kidney damage or who take drugs that increase potassium levels should avoid them.

Low-sodium salts
Products that combine salt and potassium chloride, such as Morton Lite Salt, are another option. Note that sea salt and kosher salt are not low-sodium alternatives; they have about the same amount of sodium as regular table salt.

Lighter flakes
You can also find reduced-sodium salt that’s made into flake-shaped crystals, which are less dense and therefore lower in sodium by volume (Diamond Crystal Salt Sense).

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