Hypertension, also known as high Blood Pressure, is a lifestyle disease; eating habits can have an impact on your blood pressure on day-to-day and long-term basis. It can damage arteries and can cause heart failure, cerebral stroke, kidney failure and damage our eyes.
It is noted that up to 25 -30% urban and 10 -20% of rural population suffer from hypertension.
Risk factors include age, race, family history, excess weight, prolonged inactivity, tobacco abuse, high sodium intake, low intake of potassium, calcium and magnesium, alcohol abuse, stress and other chronic conditions like high cholesterol, diabetes and kidney disease.
Salt and hypertension
It is a known fact that high salt intake results in high blood pressure. Dietary salt plays an important role in regulating our BP. When we talk about excess salt, it is not the added salt in homemade food, but in fact the high sodium content from processed foods and ready-to-eat food. About 80% of the sodium we consume comes from processed food like pickles and sauces.
Some foods with high sodium content to be avoided by hypertensive patients are:
- Smoked meat
- Tomato juice
- Frozen beans and peas
- Canned Spinach
- Potato chips & biscuits
- Fast food (including read-to-eat food)
- Soy sauce
- 2 minute soups
Several myths regarding salt consumption are as follows:
- We get all our salt from the salt added in homemade food
- Non-regular varieties of salt like pink salt, rock salt etc. are low in sodium
- Eating more salt will prevent muscle cramps
- Only the elderly and diseased individuals should restrict salt intake
- Sweet food is low in sodium
Other factors which can also impact our blood pressure:
Potassium: Intake of potassium in our diet is critical. A good balance between potassium and sodium should ideally be 3:1. Fruits and green leafy vegetables are rich source of potassium.
Sugar and hypertension: Excessive sugar intake has been linked to increased weight gain and obesity. However, a well spread myth is that excessive sugar intake does not impact BP. The truth is that sugar component, especially in sweetened and carbonated drinks, contributes to an increase in obesity amongst people of all ages. High BP is commonly associated with people who are obese and overweight.
Alcohol consumption, especially binge drinking increases BP
Excessive consumption of caffeine can lead to increase in BP
Consuming tobacco, in any form, increases risk of hypertension.
Foods that are good and help in lowering high blood pressure, if listed below, this can be easily stocked in the pantry and can be used for replacing certain unhealthy components of our meals.
Snack times can also be tackled with healthy options, if one wisely choses these foods over the regular ready-to-eat food:
- Leafy greens – Lettuce, spinach, beetroots, methi
- Berries – Blueberries, strawberries and raspberries
- Skimmed milk and yogurt
- Fish with omega 3 fatty acids such as salmon, mackerel or tuna
- Sunflower seeds
- Garlic and herbs
- Dark chocolate
- Unsalted pistachios
The author is a Consultant Physician and Internist at Fortis Hospital, Mulund