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Q: What can I do to keep my blood pressure under control?

High blood pressure can contribute to many life-threatening conditions, like heart attack, heart failure, and stroke. Often there are not obvious symptoms of high blood pressure, so you may not realize you have it. That's why it's important to get regular blood pressure checks from your healthcare provider.

If you do have high blood pressure, there are many things you can do to keep it under control. Losing extra weight is one of the most effective things you can do to bring blood pressure down. This is especially important for people who carry weight around their middle, since carrying weight around your waistline can put you at greater risk.

Other things you can do include getting regular physical exercise—about 30 minutes of exercise (that gets your heart rate up) most days of the week—and eating a diet that's rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and low in saturated fat. Look for ways to reduce your salt intake and consider eating foods like bananas that are high in potassium, since potassium can help offset the effects of sodium. Remember that anything that comes out of a box or can has a high likelihood of having high amount of salt. Limiting alcohol and caffeine can help, and if you smoke, now is the time to quit.

Finally, if lifestyle changes aren't enough, talk with your doctor. They can talk with you about medications that can help manage your blood pressure.

Anil Punjabi, MD
Cardiologist