High diastolic blood pressure: 4 ways to stay in control

Heart Health

by Helen Hashemi, MD

Mar 27, 2024

Keeping your blood pressure under control is a great way to care for your heart and vascular health.

When you get your blood pressure taken, your doctor will look at two numbers to determine if you have high blood pressure. A normal blood pressure reading is about 120/80 mmHg. The top number is systolic blood pressure and bottom number is diastolic blood pressure.

But what if only the diastolic pressure is above where it should be? Here’s what you should know about this specific type of high blood pressure and the steps you can take to reduce your risk.

Systolic and diastolic blood pressure: Getting to the heart of your numbers

Systolic blood pressure is the pressure in your arteries when your heart contracts and pumps blood, while diastolic blood pressure is the pressure when your heart relaxes between beats.

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is diagnosed when the systolic pressure is 130 or higher or the diastolic pressure is 80 or higher. 

Isolated diastolic hypertension is a medical condition when only the bottom number of your blood pressure reading is high. It happens when the diastolic blood pressure is 90 mmHg or higher but systolic blood pressure remains in the normal range below 130 mmHg.

Diastolic high blood pressure is generally less common than combined systolic and diastolic hypertension. It also tends to be more common in younger people. 

Why high diastolic blood pressure matters to you

If high blood pressure is uncontrolled, it can put you at risk for several conditions:

  • Stroke
  • Heart failure
  • Kidney damage
  • Vision problems
  • Peripheral artery disease
  • Aneurysms
  • Cognitive decline

So, monitoring your blood pressure regularly and managing it are essential to keeping your body working at its best.

Many factors can lead to high diastolic blood pressure, such as:

  • Stress
  • Obesity
  • An unhealthy diet high in salt and fats
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Underlying medical conditions like kidney disease
  • Certain medications

It's crucial to identify the specific cause of your high diastolic blood pressure and address it through lifestyle changes, medication management if needed and regular monitoring with medical guidance.

4 steps you can take to manage high diastolic blood pressure

Once you understand the cause of your high diastolic blood pressure, you have the power to effectively control it and reduce the risk of heart, vascular and other conditions.

Talk to your doctor about these four options:

  1. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet: This heart-healthy eating plan helps lower blood pressure by emphasizing a higher intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat dairy while limiting saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, sweets and sugary beverages. It encourages a nutrient-rich diet that supports overall cardiovascular health and is backed by scientific research.
  2. Personalized exercise plan: Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week, such as brisk walking or cycling, broken down into 30 minutes a day for five days a week. Additionally, include strength training exercises targeting major muscle groups at least two days a week and incorporate flexibility and balance exercises like yoga or tai chi. Gradually increasing the intensity and duration of exercise can also enhance its effectiveness. Talk with a primary care physician or fitness professional to create a personalized exercise plan for you.
  3. Weight loss: Weight loss is a key component of blood pressure control, especially for those who are overweight or obese. It can give your cardiovascular health a significant boost and reduce the risk of conditions related to high blood pressure. 
  4. Blood pressure medication: Medication might be prescribed if lifestyle changes don't lower high blood pressure enough and when your blood pressure is consistently higher than 130/80 mmHg, especially if you have heart disease, diabetes or other heart-related risks. Your physician will work with you to decide if this option is right for you based on your overall health, risk factors and response to lifestyle changes.

For many people, using multiple methods is the best fit for keeping blood pressure in control. For example, combining regular exercise with a healthy, balanced diet is essential for weight loss. But remember, if you need more support to manage your diastolic blood pressure, you have options.

Check in with a cardiologist if:

  • Managing your blood pressure becomes hard
  • You experience cardiovascular symptoms
  • You have a history of heart disease, need specialized tests or have a family history of heart problems.

Cardiologists can partner with you to minimize the risks related to high diastolic blood pressure and enhance your heart health. Connect with a cardiologist today.

About the Author

Dr. Hashemi is a cardiologist with Baylor Scott & White Heart and Vascular Hospital – Dallas specializing in acute and chronic cardiac issues. She is passionate about preventive cardiology and helps patients focus on diet, lifestyle and risk factor modification.

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