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Understanding Blood Pressure

How Low Is Low Enough?

Most of us are used to hearing that blood pressure is normal as long as it is below 140/90 mmHg. According to the latest recommendations, however, blood pressure should be less than 120/80 mmHg to be classified as normal. People whose blood pressure is between 120/80 mmHg and 139/89 mmHg are at increased risk of developing hypertension and cardiovascular diseases later in life. Such people have prehypertension, a condition that should be treated with diet and exercise (but not drug therapy) to achieve normal levels.

Getting Down To Normal

High blood pressure responds well to healthy lifestyle changes. Losing just 10 pounds of body weight provides a meaningful drop in blood pressure and can prevent hypertension in many overweight patients.

Regular aerobic exercise such as a brisk 30-minute walk each day is a great way to help control blood pressure.

Blood pressure reductions can also be achieved with diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products, as well as reduced cholesterol, fat, and salt, and only moderate amounts of alcohol.

Patients with hypertension frequently require one or more antihypertensive drugs to get their blood pressure down to normal.

Whether achieved with or without medication, effective treatment of hypertension reduces the risk of stroke by up to 40 percent, heart attack by as much as 25 percent, and heart failure by more than 50 percent.