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How Is High Blood Pressure Treated?

Based on your diagnosis, health care providers develop treatment plans for high blood pressure that include lifelong lifestyle changes and medicines to control high blood pressure; lifestyle changes such as weight loss can be highly effective in treating high blood pressure.

Treatment Plans

Health care providers work with you to develop a treatment plan based on whether you were diagnosed with primary or secondary high blood pressure and if there is a suspected or known cause. Treatment plans may evolve until blood pressure control is achieved.

If your health care provider diagnoses you with secondary high blood pressure, he or she will work to treat the other condition or change the medicine suspected of causing your high blood pressure. If high blood pressure persists or is first diagnosed as primary high blood pressure, your treatment plan will include lifestyle changes. When lifestyle changes alone do not control or lower blood pressure, your health care provider may change or update your treatment plan by prescribing medicines to treat the disease. Health care providers prescribe children and teens medicines at special doses that are safe and effective in children.

If your health care provider prescribes medicines as a part of your treatment plan, keep up your healthy lifestyle habits. The combination of the medicines and the healthy lifestyle habits helps control and lower your high blood pressure.

Some people develop “resistant” or uncontrolled high blood pressure. This can happen when the medications they are taking do not work well for them or another medical condition is leading to uncontrolled blood pressure. Health care providers treat resistant or uncontrolled high blood pressure with an intensive treatment plan that can include a different set of blood pressure medications or other special treatments.

To achieve the best control of your blood pressure, follow your treatment plan and take all medications as prescribed. Following your prescribed treatment plan is important because it can prevent or delay complications that high blood pressure can cause and can lower your risk for other related problems.

Healthy Lifestyle Changes

Healthy lifestyle habits can help you control high blood pressure. These habits include:

To help make lifelong lifestyle changes, try making one healthy lifestyle change at a time and add another change when you feel that you have successfully adopted the earlier changes. When you practice several healthy lifestyle habits, you are more likely to lower your blood pressure and maintain normal blood pressure readings.

Healthy Eating

To help treat high blood pressure, health care providers recommend that you limit sodium and salt intake, increase potassium, and eat foods that are heart healthy.

Limiting Sodium and Salt

A low-sodium diet can help you manage your blood pressure. You should try to limit the amount of sodium that you eat. This means choosing and preparing foods that are lower in salt and sodium. Try to use low-sodium and “no added salt” foods and seasonings at the table or while cooking. Food labels tell you what you need to know about choosing foods that are lower in sodium. Try to eat no more than 2,300 mg sodium a day. If you have high blood pressure, you may need to restrict your sodium intake even more.

Your health care provider may recommend the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan if you have high blood pressure. The DASH eating plan focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other foods that are heart healthy and low in fat, cholesterol, and salt.

The DASH eating plan is a good heart-healthy eating plan, even for those who don’t have high blood pressure. Read more about the DASH eating plan.

Heart-Healthy Eating

Your health care provider also may recommend heart-healthy eating, which should include:

  • Whole grains
  • Fruits, such as apples, bananas, oranges, pears, and prunes
  • Vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, and carrots
  • Legumes, such as kidney beans, lentils, chick peas, black-eyed peas, and lima beans
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy products, such as skim milk
  • Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, and trout, about twice a week

When following a heart-healthy diet, you should avoid eating:

  • A lot of red meat
  • Palm and coconut oils
  • Sugary foods and beverages

In the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)-sponsored Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos, which studied Hispanics living in the United States, Cubans ate more sodium and Mexicans ate less sodium than other Hispanic groups in the study. All Hispanic Americans should follow these healthy eating recommendations even when cooking traditional Latino dishes. Try some of these popular Hispanic American heart-healthy recipes.

Being Physically Active

Routine physical activity can lower high blood pressure and reduce your risk for other health problems. Talk with your health care provider before you start a new exercise plan. Ask him or her how much and what kinds of physical activity are safe for you.

Everyone should try to participate in moderate-intensity aerobic exercise at least 2 hours and 30 minutes per week, or vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise for 1 hour and 15 minutes per week. Aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, is any exercise in which your heart beats harder and you use more oxygen than usual. The more active you are, the more you will benefit. Participate in aerobic exercise for at least 10 minutes at a time, spread throughout the week.

Read more about physical activity:

Maintaining a Healthy Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight can help you control high blood pressure and reduce your risk for other health problems. If you’re overweight or obese, try to lose weight. A loss of just 3 to 5 percent can lower your risk for health problems. Greater amounts of weight loss can improve blood pressure readings, lower LDL cholesterol, and increase HDL cholesterol. However, research shows that no matter your weight, it is important to control high blood pressure to maintain good health.

A useful measure of overweight and obesity is body mass index (BMI). BMI measures your weight in relation to your height. To figure out your BMI, check out NHLBI’s online BMI calculator or talk to your health care provider.


  • Below 18.5 is a sign that you are underweight.
  • Between 18.5 and 24.9 is in the healthy range.
  • Between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight.
  • Of 30 or more is considered obese.

A general goal to aim for is a BMI below 25. Your health care provider can help you set an appropriate BMI goal.

Measuring waist circumference helps screen for possible health risks. If most of your fat is around your waist rather than at your hips, you’re at a higher risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. This risk may be high with a waist size that is greater than 35 inches for women or greater than 40 inches for men. To learn how to measure your waist, visit Assessing Your Weight and Health Risk. For more information about losing weight or maintaining your weight, go to Aim for a Healthy Weight.

Limiting Alcohol Intake

Limit alcohol intake. Too much alcohol will raise your blood pressure and triglyceride levels, a type of fat found in the blood. Alcohol also adds extra calories, which may cause weight gain.

Men should have no more than two drinks containing alcohol a day. Women should have no more than one drink containing alcohol a day. One drink is:

  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 1½ ounces of liquor

Managing and Coping With Stress

Learning how to manage stress, relax, and cope with problems can improve your emotional and physical health and can lower high blood pressure. Stress management techniques include:

  • Being physically active
  • Listening to music or focusing on something calm or peaceful
  • Performing yoga or tai chi
  • Meditating


Blood pressure medicines work in different ways to stop or slow some of the body’s functions that cause high blood pressure. Medicines to lower blood pressure include:

  • Diuretics (Water or Fluid Pills): Flush excess sodium from your body, which reduces the amount of fluid in your blood and helps to lower your blood pressure. Diuretics are often used with other high blood pressure medicines, sometimes in one combined pill.
  • Beta Blockers: Help your heart beat slower and with less force. As a result, your heart pumps less blood through your blood vessels, which can help to lower your blood pressure.
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme (ACE) Inhibitors: Angiotensin-II is a hormone that narrows blood vessels, increasing blood pressure. ACE converts Angiotensin I to Angiotensin II. ACE inhibitors block this process, which stops the production of Angiotensin II, lowering blood pressure.
  • Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers (ARBs): Block angiotensin II hormone from binding with receptors in the blood vessels. When angiotensin II is blocked, the blood vessels do not constrict or narrow, which can lower your blood pressure.
  • Calcium Channel Blockers: Keep calcium from entering the muscle cells of your heart and blood vessels. This allows blood vessels to relax, which can lower your blood pressure.
  • Alpha Blockers: Reduce nerve impulses that tighten blood vessels. This allows blood to flow more freely, causing blood pressure to go down.
  • Alpha-Beta Blockers: Reduce nerve impulses the same way alpha blockers do. However, like beta blockers, they also slow the heartbeat. As a result, blood pressure goes down.
  • Central Acting Agents: Act in the brain to decrease nerve signals that narrow blood vessels, which can lower blood pressure.
  • Vasodilators: Relax the muscles in blood vessel walls, which can lower blood pressure.

To lower and control blood pressure, many people take two or more medicines. If you have side effects from your medicines, don’t stop taking your medicines. Instead, talk with your health care provider about the side effects to see if the dose can be changed or a new medicine prescribed.

Future Treatments

Scientists, doctors, and researchers continue to study the changes that cause high blood pressure, to develop new medicines and treatments to control high blood pressure. Possible future treatments under investigation include new combination medicines, vaccines, and interventions aimed at the sympathetic nervous system, such as kidney nerve ablation.

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Last Updated: September 10, 2015