Avoid sodium by limiting the amount of salt you add to your food. Be aware that many processed foods and restaurant meals are high in sodium.

Studies have shown that people who eat a healthy diet can lower their blood pressure. For more information on healthy diet and nutrition, see CDC’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Program Web site.

To find out whether your weight is healthy, doctors often calculate a number called the body mass index (BMI). Doctors sometimes also use waist and hip measurements to measure a person’s excess body fat.

If you know your weight and height, you can compute your BMI at CDC’s Assessing Your Weight Web site.

Key Definitions

For more information, see the CDC’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Program Web site.

For more information, see CDC’s Physical Activity Web site.

If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease and stroke. Your doctor can suggest programs to help you quit.

For more information about tobacco use and quitting, see CDC’s Smoking and Tobacco Use Web site.

If you drink alcohol, you should do so in moderation—no more than one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men.

More information on alcohol can be found at the CDC’s Alcohol and Public Health Web site.

What You Can Do

Your doctor can measure your blood pressure, or you can use a machine available at many pharmacies. You can also use a home monitoring device to measure your blood pressure.

Blood pressure is written as two numbers. The first (systolic) number represents the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats. The second (diastolic) number represents the pressure in your vessels when your heart rests between beats.

Blood Pressure Levels
NormalSystolic: less than 120 mmHg
Diastolic: less than 80 mmHg
At risk (prehypertension)Systolic: 120–139 mmHg
Diastolic: 80–89 mmHg
HighSystolic: 140 mmHg or higher
Diastolic: 90 mmHg or higher

Prevent or Treat Your Medical Conditions

About 60% of people who have diabetes also have high blood pressure.2 If you have diabetes, you can lower your risk for high blood pressure by following the healthy guidelines listed here.

For more information about diabetes, see CDC’s Diabetes Public Health Resource Web site.

All drugs may have side effects, so talk with your doctor on a regular basis. As your blood pressure improves, your doctor will want to monitor it often.

Lifestyle changes are just as important as taking medications