How much can healthy eating and exercise lower blood pressure?

Got high blood pressure? Here’s how much your systolic pressure could fall with healthy eating and exercise, according to guidelines from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology.

Eat a DASH diet: 11 points

Load up on fruits and vegetables and shrink bad fats, added sugars, and salt. Here’s a 2,100-calorie version. (Note: servings are small.) For more tips on following a DASH-style diet, see our guide.

Cut salt: 5 points

Cut your sodium by 1,000 milligrams a day, ideally to 1,500 mg a day. Most sodium comes from packaged and restaurant foods that don't even taste salty. Some examples:

Exercise: 5 points

Aim for 90 to 150 minutes a week of aerobics (brisk walking, biking, running, etc.) and/or resistance training (biceps curls, leg presses, etc.).

couple riding their bikes

Lose excess weight: 5 points

Expect about a 1 point drop in systolic blood pressure for every 2 pounds you lose.


Get more potassium: 4-5 points

The goal: get 3,500 to 5,000 milligrams of potassium a day. You get the most bang for your calorie buck with fruits and vegetables.

Limit alcohol: 4 points

If you drink, stop at one drink a day for women or two for men.

glass of red wine

Photos: (DASH Diet, top to bottom) © EWA BROZEK, © Stefanie Leuker, ©, © Krzysiek z Poczty, © cultureworx, © Paylessimages, © pockygallery11, © cultureworx, (scale) © Sashkin, (couple) © Monkey Business, (wine) © Africa Studio.