Monitoring blood pressure can help assess risk factor management.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects 33 percent of American adults, according to the American Heart Association's 2014 statistics. High blood pressure can have serious health consequences, but in the absence of obvious symptoms, regular medical exams can ensure blood pressure isn't increasing over time. While some risk factors for high blood pressure can't be modified -- including family history, age, race and gender -- other risk factors can be controlled.
A healthy diet -- including the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH, regimen -- is recommended by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure or to help lower high blood pressure. The DASH diet is high in fruits and vegetables and low in fats and sugars, and it includes good sources of fiber, such as beans, whole grains and nuts. A low sodium intake is strongly recommended, ideally around 1,500 to 2,300 mg per day, according to the July 2012 DASH diet guidelines.
According to the authors of an October 2007 article in "Circulation," lack of exercise is another risk factor for high blood pressure, independent of weight. Moderate exercise for 30 minutes, such as a brisk walk 5 times a week, or vigorous exercise, such as jogging, for at least 20 minutes 3 times a week, is sufficient to help lower high blood pressure, according to the authors of an April 2008 article in "Angiology." Physical activity also can prevent excessive weight gain.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly two thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute notes an established link between weight and hypertension. Excess weight creates added strain on the heart and blood vessels and is directly linked to high blood pressure. Results from the Look AHEAD study published in "The American Journal of Medicine" in March 2013 demonstrated that losing as little as 10 percent of total weight, when overweight or obese, can be sufficient to lower high blood pressure.
Other factors can also contribute to high blood pressure. According to the American Heart Association, some additional ways to help control your blood pressure include avoiding tobacco smoke, limiting alcohol consumption and managing stress. A study published in the "American Journal of Hypertension" in January 2014 demonstrated that poor quality of sleep and sleep apnea, particularly in men, are also associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure. Sleep apnea can be successfully treated, so seek medical attention if this is a concern.