As blood circulates through the body, it exerts varying degrees of force on artery walls; doctors refer to this as blood pressure. High blood pressure is symptomless, so many people don’t realize they have a potentially life-threatening disease. If the condition goes unchecked, high blood pressure damages the heart and blood vessels and can lead to a stroke, heart attack, and other serious consequences.
DIET AND HYPERTENSION
Diet plays a role in both prevention and treatment of high blood pressure, experts now agree. Simple things can help your blood pressure sure in check.
LIMIT YOUR SALT INTAKE
A high-salt diet also contributes to the condition in people who have a genetic tendency to retain sodium; in these individuals, restriction of salt beginning at an early age reduces the risk of developing hypertension. The best way to reduce sodium intake is to avoid adding salt and to avoid most processed foods, which are usually loaded with sodium. Check labels carefully-look for the term “sodium” to find hidden salt. In addition to avoiding salty and pickled foods, use herbs and spices in cooking.
KEEP YOUR WEIGHT DOWN
Begin even slightly overweight contributes to hypertension; losing excess weight is often all that is needed to return blood pressure to normal. Even a modest weight loss will cause a drop in blood pressure.
EAT LESS FAT
A high-fat diet not only leads to weight gain but may also contribute to high blood pressure. Limit fat intake to 30% or less of total calories, with 10% or less coming from saturated animal fats. This means cutting back on butter and margarine; switching to low-fat milk and another low-fat dairy products; choosing lean cuts of meat; and shifting to low-fat cooking methods, such as broiling instead of frying.
REDUCE ALCOHOL AND CAFFEINE CONSUMPTION
Although a glass of wine or other alcoholic drink daily seems to reduce the chance of a heart attack, consuming more than this will negate any benefit and may increase the risk of hypertension. Too much caffeine can also raise blood pressure. Older adults with hypertension may be more sensitive to the effects of caffeine and should limit their intake.
GET MORE GARLIC
The amount of garlic necessary to lower blood pressure, however, can cause other problems, especially unpleasant breath, and body odor. Although garlic is available in odorless pills, it is not known if these pills produce the same benefits as eating garlic fresh or lightly cooked.
CONTROL WITH THE DASH DIET
The DASH diet provides foods that are high in fiber, calcium, magnesium, and potassium, all of which have been associated with lower blood pressure. It is also low in saturated fat. The diet calls for eating 8 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables and 2 to 3 cups low-fat dairy foods daily. Here are the board DASH guidelines you can follow in menu planning:
- Grains and grain products:7 to 8 servings daily
- Fruits and vegetables:4 to 5 serving of each day
- Low-fat or nonfat dairy foods:2 to 3 servings daily
- Meats, poultry, and fish:2 or fewer servings daily
- Nuts, seeds, or legumes: 4 to 5 servings per week
- Fats:2 to 3 servings daily: avoid saturated fat
- Sweets:5 Per week
OTHER LIFESTYLE CHANGES
While a proper diet is instrumental in maintaining normal blood pressure, it should be combined with other lifestyle changes. One of the most important is regular aerobic exercise, which lowers bp by conditioning the heart to work more efficiently. If you smoke, give up the habit. Nicotine raises blood pressure. Quitting can drop bp by 10 points or more.
USE MEDICATIONS WITH CAUTION
Over-the-counter cold, allergy, and diet pills can raise blood pressure. In some women, birth control pills, or estrogen replacements therapy, can cause high bp.
There is no doubt that stress temporarily raises blood pressure, and some experts think that it may have a long-term effect. Meditation, yoga, biofeedback training, self-hypnosis, and other relaxation techniques may help lower blood pressure. Studies have found that people with pets have lower blood pressure than non-pets owners.