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Approaches To Blood Pressure Control

A healthy lifestyle is critical to preventing and treating high blood pressure.

The Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure report says lifestyle changes including weight loss, exercise, eating less salt, and drinking less alcohol can go a long way towards decreasing blood pressure, lowering heart-disease risk, and making blood pressure drugs work better.

By lowering your systolic blood pressure(the "top" number in a blood pressure reading), your diastolic blood pressure would likely come down as well.

Estimated Blood Pressure Reduction From Lifestyle Change

Lifestyle Change


Approx. Systolic BP Reduction

Weight loss

Normal BMI of 18.5 - 24.9*

5 - 20 points per 22 lbs. lost

Follow DASH eating plan**

Diet high in fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, and low in fat

8 -14 points

Salt reduction

Limit salt to 2,400 milligrams per day

2 - 8 points


30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week

4 - 9 points

Moderate drinking

Limit alcohol to no more than two drinks per day

2 - 4 points

*BMI is body mass index, a measurement of the ratio of height to weight. Calculate your BMI.

**The report recommends people with high blood pressure follow the DASH diet - Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This eating plan is based on a daily intake of 2,000 calories:

  • 7-8 servings per day of grains and grain products (these can include breakfast cereal, whole grain bread, rice, pasta, etc.)
  • 4-5 servings of vegetables
  • 4-5 servings of fruit
  • 2-3 servings of low-fat or nonfat dairy foods
  • No more than two servings per day of meat, poultry, and fish
  • 4-5 servings of nuts, seeds, and legumes per week
  • 2-3 servings of fats and oils (serving example: 1 teaspoon of margarine or oil, 1 tablespoon of salad dressing or mayonnaise)
  • 5 servings of sweets per week (only low-fat treats like sugar, jelly, or sorbet)


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