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Monitor Your Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is indicated by two numbers, each referring to how high in millimeters the pressure of the blood in your arteries can raise a column of mercury (Hg). The first number, the systolic pressure, represents the force of blood during a heartbeat. The second number, the diastolic, indicates the pressure between heartbeats. Blood pressure measurements for establishing hypertension now reflect equal emphasis on systolic and diastolic pressure, whereas previously only diastolic. Levels above 140/90 mm Hg are generally thought to require medical treatment, often beginning with the lifestyle measures given below.

Seven Steps to Control Blood Pressure

Lose weight if you are overweight—even a small drop in weight can lower blood pressure significantly. In some overweight people, a loss of as little as 5 to 10 pounds can make antihypertensive drugs unnecessary.

Limit your daily alcohol intake to less than two drinks daily.

Exercise regularly.

Don't smoke.

Keep your sodium intake under 2,400 milligrams per day (the amount in 6 grams of salt—a little more than a teaspoon).

Maintain an adequate dietary intake of potassium, calcium, magnesium, and dietary fiber, which may help prevent or lower high blood pressure.

Reduce your intake of saturated fat and cholesterol, which can help you reduce weight and is beneficial for overall cardiovascular health.
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