Hypertension : Lifestyle Factors

Hypertension is another word for high blood pressure.
It is a common yet potentially serious medical condition that is especially prevalent in modern industrialised countries such as the USA, UK, Canada and Australia. Hypertension may not be obvious because it sometimes has no symptoms, hence some people have hypertension without knowing it.

Hypertension can be serious because it may increase the risk of heart disease and other medical problems but complications of hypertension can be avoided by regular blood pressure checks followed by prompt treatment if hypertension is diagnosed. The probability of developing hypertension can also be reduced by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

As stated on the page about blood pressure:

Normal Blood Pressure is about

mm Hg.

where the value 120 refers to systolic blood pressure and the value 80 refers to diastolic blood pressure.

While this definition of "normal blood pressure" is widely used, the exact figures may vary slightly between sources such as books and websites. For example, 120 systolic and 80 diastolic is sometimes described as "optimal" blood pressure, with similar, but slightly higher, figures such as 130 and 85 given for "normal" blood pressure.

Definition of Hypertension

Hypertension = High Blood Pressure

Hypertension is defined as persistently high blood pressure of at least a systolic blood pressure of 140 mm Hg (or higher) combined with a diastolic blood pressure of 90 mm Hg (or higher).


Many holistic health practitioners work with clients who are managing concerns about, or tendency to, hypertension by adjusting certain aspects of their lifestyle.

As applies to other medical conditions, it is generally advisable to seek personal advice from a qualified professional - who may wish to investigate the condition, possible causes of it, and any early indications it may provide about possible complications or increased risks of complications developing.

The first step to managing hypertension by improving lifestyle is to know which aspects of lifestyle are thought to affect hypertension and which changes (if any) are appropriate to reduce hypertension.

Lifestyle Considerations for Managing Hypertension

Lifestyle Consideration
Weight (Body Mass Index, BMI)

Other than drug treatments, weight loss is generally considered to be a very important - sometimes the most important - approach to reducing hypertension in people who are overweight. In some cases even small reductions in body weight of as little as a few pounds (lbs) have helped to reduce the blood pressure of people who are overweight.

Alcohol Consumption

Government advice about safe levels of alcohol consumption has varied over time and is different for men and women. Excessive alcohol consumption is a contributory factor to hypertension so people who drink alcohol and who have hypertension may benefit from reducing their consumption of alcoholic drinks such as beer, wine and spirits - or even giving-up drinking alcohol altogether.


Exercise appropriate for the person's age and physical condition is generally recommended as part of any healthy lifestyle.
It has been suggested that moderate physical activity e.g. brisk walking or cycling for 30-45 mis approx. 3 times per week can reduce systolic blood pressure by around 10 mm Hg.

Sodium (Salt) Consumption

Approximately 50% of people with hypertension are thought to be "salt sensitive".
In those cases a low-salt diet may be recommended to help reduce their blood pressure. Many supermarkets, as well as healthfood and other shops, offer low-salt products or reduced-salt goods for people following special low-salt diets.

Minerals in Diet

Sufficient potassium, calcium and magnesium (see also our Diet & Nutrition page about minerals) in the diet is thought to reduce the likelihood of hypertension.
Further information: Many nutritionists offer detailed personal advice about healthy eating for people who have hypertension - look online, or for a qualified professional in your area.


Smoking tobacco products e.g. cigarettes has been found to have damaging effects on the heart.
Smoking can increase the already negative consequences of hypertension by reducing the diameter of (i.e. narrowing) blood vessels, incl. e.g. large arteries, small arterioles and veins. Such narrowing of blood vessels is called "vasoconstriction" and is the opposite of making the blood vessels wider, which is "vasodilation".

Stress Management

Many books have been written on the subject of stress management and new titles are being published every year. A wide range of techniques are said to reduce stress and, to a certain extent, different techniques work best for different people. Examples of techniques used to reduce stress include meditation, tai chi, visualisations, various therapies (e.g. aromatherapy, massage, reflexology, reiki and others), planning task ahead of deadlines, learning how to manage one's time, learning how to say "no" nicely, and many more.

One possible scientific explanation for the positive effect of reducing stress (using some techniques, e.g. meditation) on hypertension is that certain relaxation methods may help to reduce the daily release of the hormones adrenalin (also known as adrenaline and epinephrine*) and noradrenalin (also known as noradrenaline and norepinephrine*) by the adrenal medulla.

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Although care has been taken when compiling this page, the information contained might not be completely up to date. Accuracy cannot be guaranteed. This material is copyright. See terms of use.

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