For many, but not all people, reduction in sodium intake is very important. The American Heart Association’s 2010 guidelines state that Americans should reduce sodium intake to less than 1500 mg daily. It is often hard for people to add up milligrams but realizing what foods are high in sodium, reading food labels, and not using the salt shaker can help. As a reference point, one-quarter teaspoon of salt has 600 mg. A large study from the National Institutes of Health showed that a special diet, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH diet, could help lower blood pressure. This diet emphasizes fruit, vegetables, low- and non-fat dairy products, lean meats, fish, beans and nuts.
Physical activity can be helpful in many ways. Expending more energy results in weight loss but exercise is felt to lower blood pressure directly as well.
Maintaining a healthy weight for one’s height will also reduce blood pressure
All people with hypertension should be treated with lifestyle modification; however, many will still need medication. There are several types or classes of blood pressure medications that work in different ways. Some examples are diuretics (water pills), and vasodilators that relax the arterial wall. It is common to use one or more medications from different classes.
Medications are also chosen according to other medical conditions that a patient may have. For example, a beta blocker may be used in a person with high blood pressure who has also had a heart attack. A person may be on one, two, three or more different medications. It is important to take medications as prescribed as they are formulated to work for either 12 or 24 hours. Some people experience side effects from the medications, and it is important to work closely with health care providers to establish a regimen that is effective and also well tolerated. There are many generic medications available and most are considered to be equivalent to brand-name formulations.