Health Encyclopedia


Health Encyclopedia Home

Managing Prehypertension Without Drugs

Managing Prehypertension Without Drugs

Keeping your blood pressure below 120/80 mm Hg is important to good health. High blood pressure (also called hypertension) is 140/90 mm Hg or greater, and blood pressure between 120/80 and 139/89 is considered "prehypertension."  This means that you are more likely to develop high blood pressure.

Both hypertension and prehypertension can increase your risk for stroke, coronary heart disease, kidney failure, and congestive heart failure, especially if they are uncontrolled, says the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. People with prehypertension often show early signs of stiffening of the arteries, enlargement of the heart, or changes in the way their kidneys work.

Although maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most effective ways to lower your blood pressure without taking medication, you can take other steps to beat this leading cause of cardiovascular disease.

These lifestyle suggestions can help keep blood pressure in control.

Exercise your options

A mddle aged man and woman working out

Work out regularly and build more physical activity into your day, even if you're not overweight. For example, pace while talking on the phone, walk instead of driving, or play with your children instead of watching from the sidelines.

There's evidence that exercise alone slightly lowers blood pressure. It can also make weight loss easier, even if you don't reduce calories. People who exercise burn calories more efficiently than those who don't. A 200-pound man who exercises moderately, for example, generally needs to consume 400 more calories per day to maintain his weight than a same-sized man who's sedentary.

Moreover, working out can set the tone for other healthy habits. People who exercise tend to be mindful of their diets and avoid smoking. Good habits tend to cluster.

Eat your way to low blood pressure

The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) was developed and researched by the National High Blood Pressure Education Program. This Mediterranean style diet has proven benefit to lower blood pressure. It doesn't require special foods. It’s a plan that includes a certain number of servings from a variety of food groups:

  • Vegetables and fruits 

  • Fat-free or low-fat milk

  • Whole grains 

  • Fish 

  • Poultry 

  • Beans 

  • Seeds and nuts 

It also provides a combination of foods rich in minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and vitamins. The DASH diet limits intake of saturated fats and cholesterol. 

Get more potassium

The recommended daily intake of potassium is 4,700 mg, according to the Institute of Medicine, but Americans average about 2,000 mg less than that. Adequate potassium is associated with reduced blood pressure.

To increase your intake and reduce your hypertension risk, try to eat at least two servings daily of any of the following potassium-rich foods:

  • One cup of cantaloupe (494 mg)

  • One medium banana (450 mg)

  • Eight ounces (1 cup) of orange juice (450 mg) 

  • About 15 raw baby carrots (420 mg) 

  • Eight ounces (1 cup) of skim milk (405 mg) 

  • Six ounces of nonfat yogurt (390 mg). 

Some salt-substitutes are a combination of salt and potassium; they can be a source of additional potassium and lower the sodium in your diet.

Raise your glass (in moderation)

If you drink, do so in moderation. That means no more than two drinks daily if you're a man and one if you're a woman. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, four or five ounces of wine, or one 1.5-ounce shot of 80-proof liquor, all of which supply about 0.5 ounce of alcohol.

In studies, moderate amounts of alcohol have been shown to be heart-healthy.

Moderate alcohol users have higher HDL ("good") cholesterol and better cardiovascular prognoses than people who don't drink at all. But a person who chronically consumes three drinks a day will experience a rise in blood pressure.

People who have a family history of alcoholism or addiction shouldn't drink at all.

Don't smoke

Smoking only increases 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 elevated because of smoking quickly adds up to several hours. That's a meaningful change and can put you at increased risk for hypertension complications, such as heart disease and stroke.

For women who take birth-control pills, smoking is especially dangerous if their blood pressure is already slightly elevated. Taking birth-control pills at any age increases your blood pressure almost invariably by two or three points. But being on the pill, having blood pressure that's already slightly elevated, and being a cigarette smoker is a dangerous triad that can lead to stroke in women as young as 20.

To play it safe, get your blood pressure checked every time you go to the doctor. Check it at home on a regular basis and keep a log of the readings to share with your physician.

Related Items
Wellness Library
  Checking Your Own Blood Pressure
  What Those Blood Pressure Numbers Mean
  All About Blood Pressure Medication
  Understanding Diuretics
Drug Reference
  Hydrochlorothiazide, HCTZ; Methyldopa
  Hydrochlorothiazide, HCTZ; Propranolol
  Amlodipine; Atorvastatin
  Amlodipine; Valsartan
  Amlodipine; Olmesartan
  Aliskiren; Hydrochlorothiazide, HCTZ
  Amlodipine; Hydrochlorothiazide, HCTZ; Valsartan
  Bendroflumethiazide; Nadolol
  Blood Pressure Quiz
Daily News Feed
  More U.S. Kids May Be at Risk for High Blood Pressure
  Following Blood Pressure-Drug Schedule May Be Critical to Survival
  Regular, Vigorous Exercise May Lower Your Stroke Risk
  Drug for Pulmonary Hypertension Shows 'Modest' Benefit in Studies
  Study Yields Genetic Clue to Rare Lung Disease
  Common Blood Pressure Drugs May Help Slow Dementia
  College Football Players May Be At Risk of High Blood Pressure
  Blood Pressure Swings Could Be Linked to Mental Decline: Study
  More Follow-Up Needed for Kids With High Blood Pressure Reading
  Self-Monitoring Blood Pressure Appears to Improve Results, Study Finds
  Channel Blockers for Blood Pressure Linked to Breast Cancer Risk, Study Finds
  Walking to Work Tied to Lower Diabetes Risk
  Vitamin D Supplements Don't Lower Blood Pressure: Study
  Eye Photography May Reveal Stroke Risk, Study Finds
  Many Risk Factors for Early Dementia Can Show Up in Teens
  Model Program Boosts Blood-Pressure Control for Patients
  Half of People With High Blood Pressure Don't Know It
  Genes Tied to High Blood Pressure Found in Black Americans
  Childhood Obesity Quadruples Chances of Adult Hypertension: Study
  More Evidence That Exercise Can Help Prevent High Blood Pressure
  Blood Pressure Drug Might Boost Chemo Success, Mouse Study Suggests
  U.S. Panel Rejects Blood Pressure Screening for Kids, Teens
  Link Seen Between Hardening of Arteries, Alzheimer's Plaques
  Stroke Affecting Younger People Worldwide, Study Shows
  Kidney Patients May Gain From Less Salt
  Snoring in Pregnancy Tied to Possible Health Concerns
  Certain Allergies Plus Blood Pressure Meds Could Be Bad Mix
  Study Finds Two Drugs Aren't Better Than One for Kidney Disease
  Healthy Lifestyle May Mean Healthy Pregnancy
  Bad Night's Sleep May Raise Blood Pressure in Kids
  Obesity Tied to Decline in Kidney Function
  New Blood Pressure Guidelines Raise the Bar for Taking Medications
  Anxiety Tied to Stroke Risk in Study
  Too Few Americans Aware of Their High Blood Pressure: Study
  Study Finds Black Women Most Likely to Have High Blood Pressure
  High Blood Pressure May Be Worse for Women
  Green Tea May Interfere With a Blood Pressure Medicine
  Sunlight Might Be Good for Your Blood Pressure: Study
  Low Vitamin D Could Up Risk for Birth Complication: Study
  Another Win for the Mediterranean-Style Diet
  High Blood Pressure in Young Adults Could Mean Heart Trouble in Middle Age
  Doctors Slower to Prescribe High Blood Pressure Meds to Younger Patients
  Blood Pressure Meds May Raise Risk of Serious Falls for Seniors
  Vegetarian Diet May Help Lower Blood Pressure, Research Suggests
  Diet to Reduce Blood Pressure May Also Stave Off Kidney Stones
  Keep Your Heart Healthy
  Nicotine Patches Don't Help Pregnant Women Quit Smoking: Study
  High Blood Pressure Common, Often Untreated in U.S. Hispanics: Study
  Even Slightly Higher Blood Pressure May Raise Stroke Risk: Study
  Diabetes in Middle Age May Cause Memory Problems Later
  Doctors Really Do Raise Your Blood Pressure
  Keeping Blood Pressure Low Halves Risk of Second Stroke: Study
  New Blood Pressure Guidelines May Take Millions of Americans Off Meds
  Helping Doctors Spot Who's Not Taking Their Blood Pressure Meds
  College Football Players Have Stiffer Arteries, Study Finds
  Aspirin Advised for Women at High Risk for Pregnancy Complication
  A Doctor's 'People Skills' Affects Patients' Health
  Implanted Device Lowers Blood Pressure in Rat Study
  Foreclosures May Raise Neighbors' Blood Pressure
  Using Internet, Apps to Manage Blood Pressure Has Dangers: Study
  Mouse Study Hints at How Mediterranean Diet Protects the Heart
  Music May Be Especially Stimulating During Pregnancy
  Heart Risks Depend on Which Blood Pressure Number Is High: Study
  More Americans Working to Control Blood Pressure, Cholesterol: CDC
  Snoring, High Blood Pressure in Pregnancy May Raise Apnea Risk
  Spats, Conflicts Can Raise a Woman's Blood Pressure
  Caffeine Affects Teen Boys, Girls Differently, Study Says
  High Blood Pressure May Sometimes Be Overtreated: Study
  Blood Pressure Kiosks May Not Always Give Accurate Readings
  Low Vitamin D Levels Linked to High Blood Pressure
  Childhood Malnutrition Linked to High Blood Pressure Later in Life: Study
  Ecstasy Use Tied to Rare Spinal Blood Vessel Problem in Teen
  High Blood Pressure May Up Psoriasis Risk for Women
Adult Diseases and Conditions
  Vital Signs (Body Temperature, Pulse Rate, Respiration Rate, Blood Pressure)
Pediatric Diseases and Conditions
  High Blood Pressure in Children and Adolescents