Risk factors for hypertension
High blood pressure can be caused by environmental and/or genetic factors. Some factors, such as age, ethnicity and gender, cannot be modified. Other factors can be changed to reduce the risk of high blood pressure. Risk factors that can be changed include lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise, whether we smoke, and the amount of stress we experience. Lifestyle changes are an important part of a plan to lower blood pressure and reduce cardiovascular risk. Changing your lifestyle takes time and practice. Making the commitment to a healthy lifestyle is the first step!
If you have hypertension, have a family member with hypertension, or would like to prevent the development of hypertension:
- Be physically active for 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week. Walk, bike, swim, or try any other physical activity that you enjoy. Even a little bit of physical activity is better than no activity at all.
Learn more about how physical activity can help lower your blood pressure.
- Choose the following foods more often:
- Vegetables and fruit
- Low-fat dairy products
- Foods low in saturated and trans fat
- Foods low in salt
- Whole grains
- Lean meat, fish and poultry
- Limit the amount of fast food, canned foods, and prepared foods that you eat.
- If you are overweight, losing about 10 lbs (5 kg) will lower your blood pressure. Reducing your weight to within a healthy range will lower your blood pressure even more.
- Eat less salt. In general, the more a food is processed, the higher the salt content. Try not to add salt when cooking and remove the salt shaker from the table.
- If you drink alcohol, limit the amount to 1 to 2 “standard” drinks a day or less. One standard drink equals a regular-sized bottle or can of beer, a 1.5 ounce shot of hard liquor, or a regular-sized glass of wine.
- Stop smoking. Smoking increases the risk of developing heart problems and many other diseases. Living and working in places that are smoke-free is also important.
- Reduce stress.
- Sodium is a part of common table salt.
- The usual amounts of sodium in the average Canadian diet are very high and increase blood pressure.
- Increased blood pressure is the leading risk for death in countries like Canada.
- 9 in 10 Canadians will develop high blood pressure or hypertension during their lives.
- 1 in 3 Canadians with high blood pressure would have normal blood pressure with a healthy amount of sodium in their diets.
- Most salt in your diet comes from processed foods and restaurant meals.
- Breads, soups and sauces usually have high amounts of sodium.
- Buy and eat more fresh foods especially fruit and vegetables.
- Read the label when buying canned or processed foods.
- Buy and eat processed foods with low salt labels or brands with the lowest percentage of sodium on the food label.
- Wash canned foods or other salty foods in water before eating or cooking.
- Use unsalted spices to make foods taste better.
- Eat less food at restaurants and ask for less salt to be added in your food orders.
- Use less sauces on your food.
- Avoid buying or eating heavily salted foods (e.g. pickled foods, salted crackers or chips, processed meats, etc).
- Avoid adding salt when cooking or at the table.
View Canada’s Food Guide
Sodium Content of Tomato Products (mg)
How much sodium should I have in my diet
In Canada, the following are the recommended adequate daily intakes and upper limits for sodium by age category. Adequate intake of sodium ensures that you have enough to maintain your health. Sodium is an important part of your diet. In general you should try to have a sodium intake level between the adequate intake and the upper limit. Some individuals may require levels above or below those indicated here.
Intake per Day (mg)
|Upper Limit for Sodium
Intake per Day (mg)
||No data available
For more information on dietary sodium
Salt and Sodium: Get the Facts
Healthy Eating For Healthy Blood Pressure