7 ways to reverse prehypertension

September 28, 2015 Providence Health Team


In this article: 

  • Prehypertension is a higher-than-normal blood pressure, but there are steps you can take to reverse it.

  • Lifestyle changes like diet changes, moving more, and reducing stress can help you reach a healthy blood pressure.

  • Providence physicians say it’s important to be proactive about reducing and reversing your prehypertension.

High blood pressure (HBP) is typically a symptom-less condition. So it’s no surprise that almost one in three adults in the U.S. has prehypertension: blood pressure that is higher than normal but not quite in the HBP range.

Blood pressure measures how hard blood pushes against artery walls as the heart pumps. In general, lower blood pressure is healthier, as HBP is linked to stroke, heart attack, and heart disease. A person is considered to have prehypertension if the systolic pressure (top number) is between 120 and 139 mmHg (millimeters of mercury) or if the diastolic pressure (bottom number) is between 80 and 89 mmHg.

If you know you have prehypertension, the good news is you can do something about it. Reduce your risk of developing HBP by practicing these 7 healthy habits:

1. Up your nutrition game

Make sure you’re getting plenty of heart-healthy foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, and lean proteins. Try boosting your potassium, as the mineral can curb the effects of sodium on blood pressure. Good sources of potassium include potato, banana, avocado, kidney beans, milk, and certain fish (wild salmon, tuna, halibut). Limit your saturated fats and cholesterol (avoid trans fats altogether!). Lastly, reduce your sodium intake to no more than one teaspoon, or 2,300 mg, of salt a day. Remember, packaged foods and restaurant meals tend to contain relatively high levels of sodium.

2. Get moving

Strive for 150 minutes of moderate physical activity every week. It’s not as daunting as it sounds. Start small with some jumping jacks and lifting lightweight dumbbells while watching TV. (If you watch one 30-minute sitcom a day, five nights a week, you’ll be set.) You can also swim a few laps before work, take a walk during lunch, or bike to the office.

3. Lose weight

If you’re getting more exercise and choosing healthier food, you may start to lose weight without even trying. Extra pounds increase strain on the heart and negatively impact cholesterol levels. Losing as few as 10 pounds can lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease.

4. Limit alcohol

Talk to your doctor about how much alcohol – if any – is safe for you to drink daily or weekly.

There are a few additional factors related to HBP, though evidence of a causal relationship does not currently exist. Improve your overall health and possibly lower your blood pressure by doing the following:

5. Reduce stress

OK, maybe reducing the amount of stress in your life isn’t feasible, but it’s possible to better manage it. Find an activity, such as kickboxing or yoga, that helps you de-stress. Or, try keeping a journal or meditating.

6. Quit smoking

If you smoke, it’s in the best interest of your health to kick the habit. If you don’t smoke, avoid secondhand smoke as much as you can.

7. Treat sleep apnea

About 12 million Americans have sleep apnea, a potentially life-threatening disorder in which throat tissue collapses, blocking the airway. Sleep apnea is a risk factor not only for HBP, but also for heart failure, diabetes, and stroke. If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, talk with your doctor about treatment options.


Find a doctor

If you’re concerned about your blood pressure and heart health, Providence’s renowned cardiologists are here to help. Find the physician that's right for you in our provider directory. Through Providence Express Care Virtual, you can also access a full range of healthcare services. 

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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

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