According to World Health Organisation (WHO) hypertension which is also known as high or raised blood pressure, is a condition in which the blood vessels have persistently raised pressure. Blood is carried from the heart to all parts of the body in the vessels. When the heart beats it pumps blood into the vessels and blood pressure is created by the force of blood pushing against the walls of blood vessels (arteries) (WHO).
The higher the pressure the harder the heart has to pump. That means the heart has to work harder when the pressure is higher. Any organ when it works more than it should it is like to be damaged if this condition continues over a period of time.
A healthy diet for people with high blood pressure
- Reducing salt intake to less than 5 g of salt per day (just under a teaspoon);
- Eating five servings of fruit and vegetables a day;
- Reducing saturated and total fat intake
- Avoid alcohol (WHO Q and A)
Excessive dietary sodium has been linked to raising in blood pressure (BP)/hypertension. Excess sodium intake leads to water retention in the body which in turn results in hypertension (Mayo).
Hypertension is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD), the leading cause of death (Kloss). Recent pre-clinical and clinical data states that even in the absence of raised BP, excess dietary sodium can have a negative impact on organs such as blood vessels, heart, kidneys, and brain. (Farquhar)
Data collected recently shows that salt intake levels in India show are around 11 g per day, that is more than double of what World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended which is an intake of 5 g per day (Johnson).
Foods that have high salt content
- Processed foods
- Pickles (Salt is used as preservative)
- Fried snacks (Namkeen)
Start reading labels on foods and try choosing foods which have low sodium content. Avoid namkeens (snacks), pickles and sauces which contain a lot of salt. But in India, most of our salt comes from what we add while cooking or at the dining table.
Obesity is one of the risk factors for hypertension. And hypertension leads to heart problems. Eating fruits and vegetables increases dietary potassium which helps reduce hypertension (Mayo). Also, fruits and veggies contribute fiber which helps in weight management.
Hence it is very important to be cautious about excess fat in the diet and also the type of fat that one is eating. Cut down on saturated fat.
Foods to be avoided to maintain ideal weight
- Excess fat
- Calorie dense foods
- Deep fried snacks
- Sweets and desserts
- Refined foods (example foods made from maida)
- Foods full of empty calories (soft drinks)
Smoking and alcohol
Smoking and alcohol are also risk factors for hypertension. Alcohol consumption regularly and in excessive amounts may cause hypertension.
Regular check-ups are needed for diagnosing hypertension as there are no specific symptoms. Check your numbers and take doctors to advise, you may need medication.
A healthy diet, adequate physical activity, avoiding smoking and alcohol (or in quantities suggested by the doctor) and any other lifestyle changes recommended by the doctor if followed you can probably lower your blood pressure to normal values and may not need medication. Take doctors suggestion on this matter.