By now you’ve gotten the picture: preventing your blood pressure from creeping up, or bringing it down to a desirable level, always begins with healthy choices in many areas of your life. The bene?ts are by no means

limited to your blood pressure alone; they also improve your heart health, reduce your chances of stroke and kidney disease, and give you an overall sense of well-being. No matter how many predisposing fac- tors for high blood pressure apply to you—being male, being black, having hypertension in your family, being older—you can reduce your blood pressure somewhat with changes in lifestyle. These are the areas to work on:
Start eating a low-fat, low-salt diet such as the DASH diet (see below).
• Lose weight if you are overweight.
• Exercise regularly.
• Drink alcohol in moderation.
• If you smoke, quit.
• Learn to manage stress.
• Do not take over-the-counter medications that can raise blood pressure, including decongestants or “energy products.”