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Your Guide to Lowering Blood Pressure NHLBI Logo


Hal's Lifestyle Choices

  Hal Fullerton
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About Hal

 Meet Hal
 Hal's Lifestyle Choices
 Hal In Control
Blood Pressure:
 162/110 mmHg

"The doctor said lifestyle is a big factor in controlling high blood pressure. My wife and I are determined to get me on the right track. Before we began, Barbara and I still had a few questions. We wrote our questions and the doctor's answers down to remember."

Hal & Barbara's Questions

Question: The doctor explained that blood pressure increases with overweight. Even a few pounds can make a difference. At my age, it's hard to lose. Where do I do I start?


Aim for a healthy weight. Try to lose about one-half to 2 pounds a week. Remember, it's a new way of living, not a quick fix. Take it off slowly and keep it off for the long-term — guide to behavior change.

Choose foods low in fat, especially saturated fat, and low in calories — low-calorie, lower-fat alternative foods.

Make foods the healthy way:

  1. Bake, boil, or broil foods instead of frying.

  2. Use cooking oil spray or a little vegetable oil or margarine when cooking.

  3. Garnish salads with lowfat or fat free mayonnaise and salad dressing.

Limit your portion size — it's not just what you eat but how much.

  1. Eat smaller portions and don't go back for seconds.

  2. Eat smaller meals throughout the day instead of one big meal.

Get active. Don't make excuses.

  1. Do your favorite moderate-level intensity physical activity for 30 minutes on most, and preferably all, days of the week. You can do at least 10 minutes of the activity three times a day. So, if you're pressed for time, walk for 10 minutes three times a day.

Moderate-level physical activities

Sample walking program

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Question: My wife, Barbara, and I find it confusing when we go grocery shopping. Can you give us some tips?


  • Start by planning weekly meals
  • Make a shopping list based on your meal plan
  • Buy only what is on your list
  • Read nutrition labels for low calorie, lowfat, and low sodium choices — use the food label

Heart healthy recipes

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Question: I have high blood cholesterol too. The doctor said I need to be especially careful about saturated fat. Why's that?


Fat and cholesterol in your diet affect the health of your heart and blood vessels. They play a role in raising the cholesterol in your bloodstream — and saturated fat raises it more than anything else you eat.

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Question: The doctor recommended something called the "DASH Eating Plan." What is that, anyway?


DASH stands for "Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension." It comes from a clinical study that found blood pressures were lowered by an eating plan low in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol, and rich in fruits, vegetables, and lowfat dairy products. The DASH eating plan also is rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium, as well as protein and fiber.

Facts about the DASH Eating Plan

DASH eating plan

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Question: I like a drink in the evening. Do I have to cut that out?


No. But drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure. It can also harm the liver, brain, and heart. And alcoholic drinks contain calories, which matter if you're trying to lose weight. Men should have no more than two drinks a day and women no more than one drink a day. What counts as a drink?

  • 12 ounces of beer (regular or light, 150 calories), or
  • 5 ounces of wine (100 calories), or
  • 1 one-half ounces of 80-proof whiskey (100 calories)


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Question: Okay. Here's a biggie. Barbara and I love to eat out. How do I do that and keep to my new heart healthy life?


Not to worry. You'll find that many restaurants are eater-friendly. Here are some tips on how to choose healthy foods when you eat out:

  • Ask for what you want. Most restaurants will honor your requests.
  • Ask questions. Your server can tell you how foods are prepared.
  • To eat smaller portions, try appetizers as your main meal.
  • Remember that bread and breadsticks may be low in calories and fat but not if you add butter, margarine, or olive oil.
  • Side dishes of plain vegetables and starches (such as rice, potato, or noodles) can be added to meals.

Eating healthy when dining out

Eating healthy with ethnic food

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