Home Am I at Risk? Preventing High Blood Pressure & Heart Failure

Preventing High Blood Pressure & Heart Failure

Who is at risk for developing high blood pressure?

One in three American adults has high blood pressure, including 36 million American women. Many factors affect your risk of developing high blood pressure. Other than being more common the older you get, your risk of developing high blood pressure also increases if you:

Click here to learn why African Americans are more likely to develop high blood pressure.

Can hormone therapy and birth control affect blood pressure in women?

While it is unusual, your blood pressure may go up if you are taking birth control pills or hormone therapy (HT) for menopausal symptoms, so it is important to have your blood pressure checked regularly. Women who take birth control pills are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop high blood pressure; this risk increases with age and obesity.11

How can I prevent high blood pressure?

If you don't have high blood pressure now, you can take steps to prevent it. While you can’t do anything about some risk factors for high blood pressure (such as age, family history, and race), there are other risk factors you can reduce by adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle. These include being overweight, being inactive and not exercising regularly, and eating a diet high in salt and fat. You can help prevent high blood pressure by taking the following steps:

  • Control your weight or lose weight if you are overweight. Losing even 10 pounds will help. Calculate your BMI here
  • Exercise regularly—30 minutes of moderate exercise a day most days of the week is best.
  • Follow a healthy eating plan, such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. Eat more fruits and vegetables and low-fat or nonfat dairy products, and limit the amounts of saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol.
  • Limit your daily intake of sodium to less than 2400 mg (about ¾ teaspoon of salt). This includes the salt you add from the salt shaker and the salt that is already in prepared foods. Read product labels so you know what you are eating. If you would like to try a salt substitute, talk with your health care provider first because they may be harmful to people with certain medical conditions.
  • Aim to consume at least 3500 mg of potassium per day. Foods rich in potassium include bananas, cantaloupe, broccoli, and peas.
  • If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For women, that means no more than 1 drink per day, equivalent to 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces (a "shot") of 80-proof liquor.
  • If you are taking birth control pills or hormone therapy, get regular blood pressure checks from your health care provider to find and control a blood pressure problem.
  • If you smoke, quit. While smoking doesn’t cause high blood pressure, it can temporarily raise blood pressure and cause hardening of the arteries

Talk with your health care provider if you need help with these steps or have any questions or concerns. For more information on medication to treat high blood pressure, click here.

Can controlling my high blood pressure lower my risk of heart failure?

Controlling high blood pressure offers one of the earliest opportunities to prevent heart failure.2, 3 Lowering high blood pressure can keep your heart from having to work too hard to pump blood and becoming damaged, cutting your risk of developing heart failure in half.2, 12, 13 It can also reduce the heart failure risk by 80% in people with isolated systolic hypertension (ISH) who have had a heart attack; no women-specific data were provided.14 ISH is a form of high blood pressure in which the top (systolic) number is high (more than 160 mm Hg) but the bottom (diastolic) number is normal (less than 90 mm Hg). Approximately 30% of women over the age of 65 have ISH.15

If high blood pressure is not treated, it can accelerate the stiffening of large arteries and bring about increasing systolic high blood pressure, eventually leading to heart failure.13, 16

See also:

How is blood pressure measured?
How is high blood pressure treated?
Blood Pressure Drugs


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  2. Prevent and Control America's High Blood Pressure: Mission Possible. March 2004; NIH Publication No. 04-5072. Available at: http://hp2010.nhlbihin.net/mission/aboutmp/action_paper.pdf. Accessed June 10, 2008.
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  8. Statistical Fact Sheet--Populations: Women and Cardiovascular Disease: American Heart Association; 2006.
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