Does Prehypertension Always Turn Into High Blood Pressure (and What Can You Do About It)?

There’s a reason your doctor is checking your blood pressure whenever you step into their office — and that’s because it can be a serious threat to your health. Harvard Health Publishing notes stage 1 hypertension begins when your numbers hit 140/90 — and stage 2, which is much more severe, begins when your numbers are over 160/100. As for prehypertension, however, your numbers just have to hit 120/80 to qualify. And this means you’re in danger of your blood pressure rising to unhealthy levels later on.

Here’s what happens when you’re prehypertensive and how you can reverse the damage before it gets more severe.

What happens to your body when you have prehypertension?

Nurse checking a patient's blood pressure

Nurse checking a patient’s blood pressure | Zinkevych/iStock/Getty Images

If you do find your blood pressure levels are slightly elevated, this means you’re prehypertensive. And though you may not be too concerned since you’re not dealing with full-blown high blood pressure, you should still take action early. As Richard Stein, M.D., tells WebMD, “It’s causing the heart muscle to beat against a higher pressure, so [the heart] is becoming thicker.”

The Mayo Clinic notes elevated blood pressure levels increase your risk for heart disease and stroke, though you’re unlikely to have any symptoms from the condition. The only way to know you have it is by getting your pressure checked regularly — and this goes for people of all ages, too. The publication notes everyone over the age of 3 should aim to have their blood pressure checked once per year. And ScienceDaily reminds us prehypertension is actually quite common amongst young adults (and on the rise), making the need to get checked out even more vital.

Will you inevitably develop high blood pressure?

Healthy, colorful food on a table

Healthy, colorful food on a table | OksanaKiian/iStock/Getty Images

Does having prehypertension mean you’re doomed to develop high blood pressure in life? Though your numbers may be elevated, all hope isn’t lost. You’re naturally more inclined to have hypertension if it runs in your family or if you have diabetes or high cholesterol, WebMD notes. But there are lifestyle changes you should be making immediately upon learning about your elevated numbers to decrease the odds of developing full-blown high blood pressure later, no matter what your genetic makeup is.

Get more exercise:

Are you getting at least 30 minutes of exercise daily? If not, you’re well-advised to start. The Mayo Clinic explains the general guideline suggests at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week (or 75 minutes of vigorous activity). Moderate activity could be as simple as a swift walk, so keep this in mind.

Watch your diet:

Diet can either reduce your prehypertension numbers or push them over the edge. For this reason, it’s vital to start eating healthy no matter where your numbers fall on the spectrum. In addition to eating more fruits, veggies, and whole grains, foods high in potassium (like bananas) may also be of particular help. Fatty fish, nuts, and olive oil may also help.

Remove excess salt:

You know by now that salt can greatly impact your blood pressure, so you should aim to cut the sodium whenever possible. Try incorporating plenty of other spices into your meals so they don’t taste bland. Your palate will adjust to the change faster than you think.

Lower your stress levels:

Constantly stressed? It may be impacting your blood pressure. Studies have shown those who deal with severe depression or anxiety often have higher blood pressure levels — and even just one heated argument can cause your numbers to rise significantly for a short period of time. Practice stress-relieving habits and best mental health practices to keep this in check.

Purchase a home monitor:

In order to take prehypertension seriously, you have to know your numbers. WebMD suggests buying a home monitor and taking a reading twice a day, once in the morning and at night, to see where you stand. “One very high reading is concerning, but one alone isn’t enough,” Stein says. Knowledge is power in this scenario, so always be aware.

Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!