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Under Pressure

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Take these steps to avoid developing hypertension.

HealthCheckUnderPressureAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three American adults has hypertension, or high blood pressure — and only about half of that group is currently taking steps to control it.

Sometimes called the “silent killer,” high blood pressure can be present without signs or symptoms. It’s a contributing factor to many dangerous health conditions, including heart attack, stroke, heart failure and kidney disease. Because you can have hypertension without even knowing it, it’s pivotal to check your blood pressure regularly.

While the risk of hypertension can run in families, prevention is possible. Follow these guidelines to find out how.

Lose Weight
Dropping extra pounds can produce a host of physical benefits. One of the most positive effects of weight loss is the associated drop in blood pressure. Reducing body weight by just 10 pounds can help prevent hypertension.

Salt Sparingly
When you eat salt, your body retains extra water to dilute or “wash” the sodium out, according to the Cleveland Clinic. In some people, this can lead to a boost in blood pressure, stressing the heart and blood vessels.

Take your first few bites before sprinkling table salt over your meals. If you already have high blood pressure, you may need to cut salt entirely out of your diet — including reading labels to find hidden sodium content, especially in processed foods.

Try replacing table salt with spices, such as black pepper, oregano, basil or thyme. You’ll find that the less salt you use, the more sensitive you become to its taste.

Get Up and Go
Just like losing weight, adding exercise into your daily routine will improve all aspects of your physical health (not to mention the mental health benefits of exercise, documented by researchers at Harvard University, the Mayo Clinic and the American Psychological Association, among others).

A little exercise can do a lot to improve high blood pressure. If you’re starting from scratch, aim for two-and-a-half hours of moderate exercise, like brisk walking or biking, per week.

Drink Less Alcohol
We’re sorry, but we have to say it — red wine is not a free pass to drink, whether or not you have high blood pressure. While red wine may have beneficial health effects when consumed in moderation, heavy or regular alcohol consumption can dramatically increase blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association.

Balance Your Plate
The easiest thing you can do to improve your diet is to cut down on processed foods, including boxed snacks and frozen dinners. Increasing your consumption of fresh vegetables and fruit, especially those high in potassium, will help lower blood pressure. Potassium affects the balance of fluids in the body, and it can work to reduce pressure created by sodium intake.