If blood pressure is found to be high, measuring it again is important. If the blood pressure elevation is persistent, lifestyle changes are recommended such as:
- Achieving the proper weight through diet and exercise for patients who are overweight
- Cutting down on salt in the diet
Sodium and salt content are listed in a variety of ways, but on the nutrition label, sodium content is reported in milligrams (mg).
Americans typically take in 5,000 to 8,000 mg of sodium per day. If blood pressure is high, it is best to reduce sodium intake to 2,000-3,000 mg / day. A teaspoon of salt has 2,196 mg of sodium. The major sources of sodium in your diet are:
- Salt added to food during cooking and at the table
- Sodium added to food during processing. This is sometimes called hidden salt.
- Sodium which naturally occurs in food and water
To reduce sodium in your diet, remove the salt shaker from the table and avoid adding it during meal preparation. Herbs and spices can be a tasty alternative. In addition, limit the amount of processed foods your family eats.
Processed luncheon meats, bacon, sausage, cheese, convenience foods and most canned foods are high in sodium. Many snack foods, including crackers, chips and baked goods, are also high in sodium.
Some sodium occurs naturally in foods, such as meats, poultry, seafood and dairy products, as well as minimal amounts in fresh vegetables and fruits. These do not need to be limited.
Look at the labels! Try to balance out the sodium in your family's meals and snacks. When eating out, avoid sauces and ask the server to prepare your meal without salt.
Certain types of restaurants, including Asian and Mexican cuisine, are particularly high in sodium, but will usually adapt your entrees to meet your needs.
Avoiding smoking, excessive caffeine and a lot of alcohol are other lifestyle changes that may help decrease blood pressure. When all else fails or if blood pressure is moderate to severe, then antihypertensive medication may be used.