Do you know that three out of 10 people worldwide suffer from issues related to hypertension or high blood pressure? On the occasion of World Hypertension Day tomorrow, dietician Sheela Seharawat tells us how we can manage it with foods
On May 17 every year, World Hypertension Day is observed across the globe to raise awareness about this disease, ways to measure and prevent it and possible means that could be adopted to avoid it from occurring. Established and initiated by The World Hypertension League (WHL), a global health organisation that leads around 85 national hypertension societies and associations worldwide, it was launched for the first time on May 14, 2005 with the aim to educate people with lack of knowledge on hypertension, and increase common public awareness.
Hypertension, the other name of high blood pressure, is ‘hyper’ meaning high and ‘tension’ meaning pressure, a condition that refers to the pressure of the blood on the artery walls. The pressure is generated when the heart contracts and pumps blood through the blood vessels. The increase in the blood pressure increases the risks of developing heart diseases alike heart failure and attacks, kidney ailments, vascular diseases, damage to the eyes and stroke.
What exactly is hypertension and how we can manage it with foods?
As mentioned earlier, it refers to the pressure of the blood against the artery walls, and over time too much of this pressure can lead to damage of the blood vessels and lead to conditions of heart diseases, kidney diseases, stroke and other serious ailments. It is often referred to as a ‘silent killer’, as it can go unnoticed and untreated for several years, causing immense damages.
However, certain factors like age, family history of hypertension, gender and ethnicity are out of human control, but there are factors like our dietary habits and physical activities are within our reach. It is clinically and scientifically proven that a diet rich in magnesium, potassium and fibers and less in sodium can help control blood pressure and its further aggravation.
Foods to help lower blood pressure
Green leafy vegetables: These contains potassium that helps our kidneys get rid of the sodium through urination and, in turn, helps in lowering the blood pressure. Potassium helps balance the sodium in the cells and lack of it could lead to its higher concentrations.
Food sources: Lettuce, spinach, kale, collard greens and beet greens
Garlic and herbs: Garlic has been considered as a medicinal herb for centuries and has been used for healing in natural medicinal therapies. It helps in reducing hypertension by increasing the amount of nitric oxide in the body. Nitric acid helps widening of the arteries and thereby reduce blood pressure. By incorporating various herbs in our daily diet also helps in reducing the salt intake.
Food sources: Basil, thyme, rosemary and cinnamon
Pomegranates: Studies have suggested that drinking a cup full of pomegranate juice daily can considerably help reducing blood pressure in a very short span. It is a healthy addition for breakfast and can be enjoyed raw or in the form of fresh juices. Check for the sugar levels and avoid adding extra sugar to make it sweet.
Skimmed milk and yoghurt: Skimmed milk and yoghurt are excellent sources of calcium and are very low in calories and fats – the two most important elements of a diet that helps lowering blood pressure. According to studies, people who eat yoghurt and drink skimmed milk experience 20% reduction in chances of developing high blood pressure. You can choose to incorporate some fruits and nuts in your yoghurt to make it healthier and always check for added sugars before buying.
Healthy fats like Omega 3 and fish: Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and herrings are great sources of Omega 3 fatty acids apart from being high in lean proteins which helps in lowering blood pressure, reduces inflammation and also lowers triglycerides. Certain fish like trout have vitamin D, a rare vitamin that is present in foods and contains properties that can lower blood pressures.
Foods to avoid in condition of hypertension
Salt and sodium: Both are the worst enemies when it comes to living healthy with high blood pressures. More than 75% of the salt we eat daily comes from packages and processed foods and not from the salt we add in our meals at home. Examples of such foods that should be strictly avoided are packed vegetable juices, frozen pizzas, deli meats, canned soups, pickles and bottled or canned tomato products.
Sugar: We all are aware that increased consumption of sugar leads to obesity and weight gain, but it is a fact that it leads to increased blood pressures also. Sugar, especially in the form of sweetened drinks, contributes largely in cases of obesity in people and it has been noticed high blood pressure is common in people who are obese and overweight.
Packaged foods: These foods contains trans and saturated fats. These foods should be strictly avoided by people with hypertension. Trans fats are however, found in smaller amounts in fatty meats and dairy products, the biggest contributors are packages and processed foods, which also contains very higher amounts of sugars and other low-fiber carbs. Chicken skin, full-fat dairy, red meats and butters are examples of some food.
Alcohol: Studies suggest that moderate amounts of alcohol helps lowering blood pressure, but drinking too much increases the blood pressure. Drinking too much can also increase the risks for many cancers, even for people who only drink occasionally. Even drinking a small amount regularly spikes levels of blood pressures. In addition, alcohol has too high calories that must be metabolized by the liver, and can cause weight gain. People who are overweight or obese are more likely to have high blood pressure.
Sauces: Sauces and other condiments can be a double trouble for people with hypertension, as it contains both as it composes both salt and sugar. Avoid them completely and especially ketchups in any of their forms.
Last but not the least, always remember the WHO slogan – “Know your blood pressure and if it is high, have it treated”.