High blood pressure can lead to serious complications and other health conditions such as cardiovascular disease. What tips should a physician provide when a patient asks, “What can I do to improve my high blood pressure?” To help patients better understand how to control high blood pressure, doctors should provide them with five lifestyle modifications they can make. 

Physicians should advise patients who are overweight or obese to lose weight. Patients should strive to maintain a healthy body weight, which would be a body mass index of about 18.5 to 24.9 kg/m². Once achieved, it is also important for patients to maintain a healthy body weight by eating a healthy diet and being physically active.

Weight reduction can help patients reduce their blood pressure by about 5 mm Hg. To continue to help, doctors may also consider recommending a lifestyle-change program for patients, especially if they have prediabetes.

Healthy eating begins with choosing the right foods. Patients with hypertension should follow the dietary approaches to stop hypertension (DASH) diet, which is low in sodium and high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, lean proteins and some nuts and whole grains. The DASH diet is a key way to control blood pressure and help patients lose weight. When patients choose to follow the DASH eating plan, they can reduce their blood pressure by 11 mm Hg. 

For additional information on how to help patients with dietary improvements, visit “Nutrition Science for Health and Longevity: What Every Physician Needs to Know,” which can help you begin an effective nutrition conversation with patients. The four-hour, self-paced course is developed and hosted by the Gaples Institute for Integrative Cardiology, a nonprofit focused on enhancing the role of nutrition and lifestyle in health care, and distributed in collaboration with the AMA Ed Hub™.

The AMA Ed Hub is an online platform that consolidates all the high-quality CME, maintenance of certification, and educational content you need—in one place—with activities relevant to you, automated credit tracking and reporting for some states and specialty boards.

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Most of the sodium in a person’s diet comes from packaged, processed foods. By minimizing the consumption of these foods, patients can reduce their sodium intake, while also lowering their BP if they have hypertension, and help prevent hypertension from developing in those who don’t.  

It is recommended that people with high blood pressure not consume more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day. Reducing their intake of sodium can lower a patient’s blood pressure by 5 to 6 mm Hg. One way to help patients minimize their consumption of sodium is by identifying the different myths about salt.

A good starting goal for patients is to aim for at least 90 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week. If possible, though, patients should try to perform 150 minutes of physical activity each week. This can help to reduce blood pressure by 5 to 8 mm Hg.

Patients should find forms of exercise and other physical activity that they enjoy. This will help them stick with it, while building more opportunities to be active in their routines. For example, taking a walk around the neighborhood, going on a bike ride or participating in a group workout session.

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Drinking too much alcohol can raise a person’s blood pressure. For patients who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, it is important for them to reduce the amount of alcohol they drink. However, even if a patient does not have high BP, limiting alcohol consumption can also help to prevent the development of this condition.

It is recommended that men should consume no more than two drinks a day, while women should have no more than one drink daily. By limiting the consumption of alcohol, patients can reduce their blood pressure by about 4 mm Hg.

The AMA has developed online tools and resources created using the latest evidence-based information to support physicians to help manage their patients’ high BP. These resources are available to all physicians and health systems as part of Target: BP™, a national initiative co-led by the AMA and AHA.

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