(Family Features) Think about adopting healthy habits this summer that can help keep your blood pressure under control. Consistently high blood pressure (hypertension) causes blood to flow through arteries at higher-than-normal pressure, causing serious health problems for your heart, blood vessels, kidneys, eyes, and brain.

Hypertension affects women and men of all ages, but small lifestyle changes and following a heart-healthy eating plan can go a long way toward prevention. For example, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), is a diet that emphasizes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, low-fat dairy, and healthy oils to maintain a healthy blood pressure. Developed through research by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), DASH focuses on reducing sodium and limiting foods high in saturated fat, including fatty meats, full-fat dairy, and tropical oils.

The NHLBI’s The Heart Truth program also encourages these healthy habits that can help you control blood pressure:

  • Move more: Aim for at least 150 minutes (2½ hours) of physical activity weekly. Try 30 minutes a day for 5 days!
  • Aim for a healthy weight: Research shows overweight adults can lower their blood pressure by losing just 3-5% of their weight. Consider joining a weight loss program with a friend to help you both stay motivated.
  • Manage stress: Reduce stress, which can increase blood pressure, with meditation, relaxing activities, or support from a therapist.
  • Quit smoking: Smoking damages your heart and blood vessels. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for help.

Get your summer off to a heart-healthy start by talking to your health care provider about your blood pressure numbers and what they mean. Learn more at hearttruth.gov and find DASH-friendly recipes at healthyeating.nhlbi.nih.gov. See a DASH diet recipe for Huli Huli Chicken on page 43.