Keep Your Blood Pressure in a Healthy Range, Lifestyle Plays an Important Role

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and heart disease is the leading cause of death in Alabama and the United States. More than 15,000 Alabama residents died of heart disease in 2021, the most recent year data are available. According to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System’s 2021 Data Report, 42.7 percent of Alabama adults surveyed said they had been told by their doctors they have high blood pressure compared to the 32.4 percent U.S. average. Unfortunately, too many Alabamians do not realize they have hypertension because there is usually no warning, and over time damage can be done to organs and other systems throughout the body.

By living a healthy lifestyle, you can help keep your blood pressure in a healthy range. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the following healthy living habits to prevent and control hypertension.

Eat a Healthy Diet

Choose healthy meal and snack options to help you avoid high blood pressure and its complications. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Talk with your health care team about eating a variety of foods rich in potassium, fiber, and protein and lower in salt (sodium) and saturated fat. For many people, making these healthy changes can help keep blood pressure low and protect against heart disease and stroke. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan is a healthy diet plan with a proven record of helping people lower their blood pressure.

Keep Yourself at a Healthy Weight

Being overweight or obese increases your risk for high blood pressure. To determine whether your weight is in a healthy range, doctors often calculate your body mass index (BMI). If you know your weight and height, you can calculate your BMI at CDC’s Assessing Your Weight website. Doctors sometimes also use waist and hip measurements to assess body fat. Talk with your health care team about ways to reach a healthy weight, including choosing healthy foods and getting regular physical activity.

Be Physically Active

Practice healthy living habits, like being physically active, to help prevent high blood pressure. Physical activity can help keep you at a healthy weight and lower your blood pressure. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking or bicycling, every week. That’s about 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Adults also need muscle-strengthening activities at least 2 days a week. In addition, adults 65 and older need activities that improve balance. Children and adolescents should get 1 hour of physical activity every day.

Do Not Smoke

Smoking raises your blood pressure and puts you at higher risk for heart attack and stroke. If you do not smoke, do not start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease. Your doctor can suggest ways to help you quit. The Alabama Tobacco Quitline is a free telephone and online coaching service for any Alabamian who is ready to quit tobacco. Information, referrals, and counseling are confidential, and sessions are designed on a schedule convenient for the caller. Those who enroll in the counseling program can receive, if medically eligible, up to 8 weeks of nicotine patches to assist in quitting. Call 1-800 Quit Now (1-800-784-8669) or visit to enroll in the program.

Limit How Much Alcohol You Drink

Do not drink too much alcohol, which can raise your blood pressure. Men should have no more than 2 alcoholic drinks per day, and women should have no more than 1 alcoholic drink per day.

Get Enough Sleep

Getting enough sleep is important to your overall health, and enough sleep is part of keeping your heart and blood vessels healthy. Not getting enough sleep on a regular basis is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.

In addition to addressing risk factors by following a healthy lifestyle, there are effective medications available to control hypertension. Uncontrolled hypertension can cause serious health problems, so please do not ignore it. Your healthcare provider can diagnose and help you manage high blood pressure.

Scott Harris, M.D., M.P.H.
State Health Officer