Prehypertension: What can I do about it?

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Prehypertension: What can I do about it?

Question

I have prehypertension. Is there anything I can do to prevent the progression to hypertension? Or is this inevitable?

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Answer

Prehypertension is defined as persistent systolic pressure ranging from 120 to 139 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or persistent diastolic pressure ranging from 80 to 89. Prehypertension often progresses to established high blood pressure (hypertension) over time. But you can prevent or delay this progression by making the following lifestyle changes:

  • Eat a healthy diet (DASH diet).
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Don't use tobacco products.
  • Control your weight.
  • Consume alcohol and caffeine in moderation.

Part of eating a healthy diet is reducing sodium intake. Many people find this difficult to do — because they miss the taste of salt in the foods they eat. But a recent study of 608 people in China suggests that using a reduced-sodium substitute — which also contained potassium and magnesium — for cooking and eating lowered blood pressure without sacrificing taste.

The findings, which were reported at the American College of Cardiology meeting in March 2006, described a 5.4 mm Hg decrease in systolic pressure in study participants who used the reduced-sodium substitute. This drop in blood pressure was maintained for 12 months while using the reduced-sodium substitute. Study participants noted no difference in taste or acceptability of the food using the substitute.

The reduced-sodium substitute used in the study is commercially available in China. A product called Cardia Salt — which is similar to but not identical to the product used in the China study — is available in the United States. Similar products may also be available in other countries.

Using a reduced-sodium substitute lowers your daily intake of salt and delays the development of high blood pressure. However, keep in mind that most of the sodium in your diet comes from processed foods. So it's important to also reduce the amount of processed foods you eat.

Last Updated: 05/16/2006
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