Prehypertension: Why Managing it is Important

Dr. Amir

By Deanna Lynn Sletten

Prehypertension is a condition in which blood pressure is slightly higher than normal but not yet diagnosed as high blood pressure. In most cases, a diagnosis of prehypertension is a warning that it is time to make lifestyle changes to lower your risk of developing high blood pressure (hypertension). If you ignore prehypertension, you increase your risk of developing heart disease which can lead to heart attack, stroke or heart failure.

What is Prehypertension?

Blood pressure readings consist of two numbers, the upper number called the systolic pressure and the lower number called the diastolic pressure. The systolic number tells the pressure in the arteries during a heart beat and the diastolic number tells the pressure in the arteries between heart beats. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, a normal blood pressure reading is 120/80 or lower. A systolic pressure reading of 121 to 139 or a diastolic pressure reading of 81 to 89 is considered prehypertension. If either number is above the normal range, even if one of the numbers is normal, it is still considered prehypertension.

Diagnosing prehypertension can be difficult because generally there are no symptoms. Taking several blood pressure readings over a period of time is the only way to determine if you are prehypertensive. But just because there are no symptoms, it doesn't mean that prehypertension is not dangerous to your health. A continuous raise in blood pressure, no matter how low, can slowly damage blood vessels, arteries and vital organs.And if risk factors for prehypertension are ignored, it can quickly turn into high blood pressure.

Controlling Prehypertension

If you have been diagnosed with prehypertension, your doctor may suggest some lifestyle changes that will help lower your blood pressure numbers. According to the Mayo Clinic, these lifestyle changes include:

  • Losing weight. Being overweight or obese causes the body to need more blood to supply nutrients and oxygen to the tissues which in turn places more stress on your arteries and blood vessels. Losing as little as 5 to 10 pounds can make a significant difference in your blood pressure.
  • Eat a healthy diet. A diet full of fat and cholesterol not only packs on the pounds but can cause plaque to build up in your arteries and raise blood pressure. Choose healthier foods including vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy and whole grains.
  • Reduce salt in your diet. Not only should you limit how much table salt you use, but watch the amount of sodium that is in packaged, canned, frozen and prepared foods you eat. You should aim for no more than 1,500 milligrams of salt per day.
  • Add exercise to your lifestyle. Not only will exercise help you lose weight, but it will also help lower your blood pressure. The American Heart Association suggests doing at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week of some form of exercise.
  • Reduce alcohol intake. Alcohol can cause you to gain weight and raise your blood pressure. The Mayo Clinic suggests no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.
  • Stop smoking. Nicotine is a stimulant that raises blood pressure.According to a study published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, a 35-year old male who quits smoking can expect to live 7 to 9 years longer while a 35-year old female will live 6 to 8 years longer.


Your doctor may suggest taking medication for prehypertension if you have diabetes, cardiovascular disease, family history of heart disease, or kidney disease.

Prehypertension is a serious condition and should not be ignored.If your doctor has diagnosed you with prehypertension, talk to him about ways to lower your blood pressure so you can reduce your risk of high blood pressure and lead a healthier life.