What Is Prehypertension?

Prehypertension indicates that blood pressure is higher than normal but not yet at stage one hypertension. It is a warning sign that calls for lifestyle changes, such as losing weight and getting regular exercise, according to Mayo Clinic. When a person has prehypertension, lifestyle choices set the stage for improved health throughout his lifetime.

Doctors use two or more blood pressure readings to diagnose patients with prehypertension, notes Mayo Clinic. Systolic pressures between 120 and 139 millimeters of mercury or diastolic pressures between 80 and 89 indicate prehypertension. Almost half of all U.S. residents over age 18 have prehypertension.

Other lifestyle changes that help to reduce hypertension include limiting salt and alcohol intake, reducing fat intake and increasing fruits and vegetables in a person's diet. In salt-sensitive individuals, decreasing the salt intake lowers or eliminates hypertension. The recommended daily amount of salt is 2,300 milligrams daily, which is equivalent to about 1 teaspoon, according to Mayo Clinic.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services explains that the guidelines for dealing with prehypertension do not include the use of medication, unless the condition occurs with other diseases. However, in patients with kidney disease and diabetes, health care providers must use different criteria for prescribing medication. Once prehypertension becomes hypertension, patients must often take two or more types of medication for adequate control of their blood pressure.