Some types of hypertension can be managed through lifestyle and dietary choices, such as engaging in physical activity, reducing alcohol and tobacco use, and avoiding a high-sodium diet.
Average salt intake is between 9 grams (g) and 12 g per day in most countries around the world.
The WHO recommends reducing intake to under 5 g a day, to help decrease the risk of hypertension and related health problems.
This can benefit people both with and without hypertension, but those with high blood pressure will benefit the most.
Moderate to excessive alcohol consumption is linked to raised blood pressure and an increased risk of stroke.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommend a maximum of two drinks a day for men, and one for women.
The following would count as one drink:
- 12 ounce (oz.) bottle of beer
- 4 oz. of wine
- 1.5 oz. of 80-proof spirits
- 1 oz. of 100-proof spirits
A healthcare provider can help people who find it difficult to cut back.
Eating more fruit and vegetables and less fat
People who have or who are at risk of high blood pressure are advised to eat as little saturated and total fat as possible.
Recommended instead are:
- whole-grain, high-fiber foods
- a variety of fruit and vegetables
- beans, pulses, and nuts
- omega-3-rich fish twice a week
- non-tropical vegetable oils, for example, olive oil
- skinless poultry and fish
- low-fat dairy products
It is important to avoid trans-fats, hydrogenated vegetable oils, and animal fats, and to eat portions of moderate size.
Hypertension is closely related to excess body weight, and weight reduction is normally followed by a fall in blood pressure. A healthy, balanced diet with a calorie intake that matches the individual's size, sex, and activity level will help.
The DASH diet
The U.S. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) recommends the DASH diet for people with high blood pressure. DASH, or "Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension," has been specially designed to help people lower their blood pressure.
It is a flexible and balanced eating plan based on research studies sponsored by the Institute, which says that the diet:
- lowers high blood pressure
- improves levels of fats in the bloodstream
- reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular disease
Some evidence suggests that using probiotic supplements for 8 weeks or more may benefit people with hypertension.