Hypertension is the increased pressure of the blood on the wall of the arteries which may lead to hardening of the same restricting the blood supply to the vital organs of the body and leading to complications like brain strokes, paralysis, cardiac arrests, kidney diseases, etc. It is also known as the ‘silent killer’ as it could remain undiagnosed for months/years. Millions of people all over the world are suffering from this deadly disease and is also one of the leading causes of deaths in the world. Drug therapy is quite important in this disease but not all the stages of hypertension require drugs. The non-pharmacological treatment, which includes dietary management and physical exercise, still remains the first line of defense.
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The elevated blood pressure stage can be managed very well with diet and exercise. In other stages, diet and exercise remains the cornerstone of management along with physician’s advice on type and amount of drugs.
General diet recommendations:
If you are overweight or obese then a hypocaloric diet has to be planned as per your body mass index (measure of obesity) so that the calorie intake is exactly how much you need. Weight reduction in such patients causes lowering of blood pressure levels naturally. The normal BMI range for Asian Indians is 18-22.9 kg/m². It has also been proven that undesirable weight accumulated around the abdominal region is unhealthy too. For Asian Indians the cut off values for waist circumference are < 80 cm for women and < 90 cm for men.
- There is a strong evidence of relationship between increased salt intake and increased blood pressure. Reduction of salt usage while cooking has shown improvement.
- Avoid/limit high sodium foods like processed foods, frozen foods, soya sauce, ketchup, bread, potato chips, salted nuts, salted snacks, salt preserved foods like pickles and chutneys, salted spreads/dressings, processed cheese, etc.
- A potassium-based salt can be easily used in cooking like Himalayan pink salt which has a lower sodium content and is rich in natural minerals.
Watch: Yoga For Hypertension Patients:
- When on a strict sodium control avoid using monosodium glutamate (MSG/Ajinomoto/Chinese salt), baking powder, sodium bicarbonate and sodium benzoate. These ingredients are generally used in chinese cuisine and baking.
- Caffeine based beverages should be consumed in moderation (1-2 cups a day).
- Adding potassium rich foods like kale, turnip greens, spinach, beet greens, etc. plays an important role in lowering down the blood pressure levels.
- Incorporate flavours from other spices and herbs like basil, ceylon cinnamon , thyme, rosemary, etc. which are easily available on the supermarket shelves nowadays.
- Foods like beetroot, garlic and dark green leafy vegetables have nitrates and when you consume them, your body converts it to nitric oxide, which in turn causes blood vessels to relax and dilate, lowering the systolic as well as diastolic blood pressure.
- Calcium rich foods like low fat milk and its products like yoghurt, cottage cheese, etc. should be incorporated in the diet for maximum benefit.
- Berries contain certain flavonoids which may help in lowering the levels. They can easily be clubbed with the breakfast cereal and milk (recipe: soak oatmeal in water/milk overnight and next morning just add some nuts and berries for that perfect kickstart of the day).
- Omega -3 fatty acids found in fish (salmon and mackerel) have been documented to reduce blood pressure levels when taken in correct amount. AHA recommends that fatty fish should be consumed twice/week which helps in lowering blood pressure levels.
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A regular and sound sleep of 7-8 hours leads to improved levels. Aerobic activity lowers the risk and resistant exercises improve physical functioning. They help you achieve good glycemic control and blood pressure levels. Deep breathing alone has shown beneficial effects in lowering down the blood pressure levels.
With inputs from Nutritionist Kavita Rastogi, Founder - Nutriremedy
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