WHO (World Health Organization) defines Hypertension as:
“The persistent high pressure exerted by the circulating blood against the walls of the arteries.”
Blood pressure includes the systolic pressure and the diastolic pressure. When the heart beats or contracts it builds the systolic blood pressure (SBP) and the pressure in the vessels in the resting phase is the diastolic blood pressure (DBP).
Hypertension is diagnosed if a person is having >140 mmHg Systolic pressure and > 90 mmHg Diastolic pressure upon repeated examination.
- The disease is a global health burden affecting 26% of the world’s population. The prevalence is more in men until 45 years of age and greater in women above 60 years of age.
- Hypertension may be Primary hypertension with no known cause. It may also be Secondary hypertension with some underlying known cause.
- There are many predisposing factors that can trigger Hypertension. These include physical inactivity, diabetes, obesity. In addition, tobacco, alcohol abuse, genetics and family history also plays a part as well.
What are the symptoms of Hypertension?
Most people with hypertension have no signs and symptoms even if the blood pressure is too high. For others the symptoms of hypertension might range from mild to moderate. Some of the common symptoms are as follows:
- Visual disturbances
- Pounding in your chest or neck
- Throbbing headache
- Breathing difficulty
- Blood in urine
- Nose bleeding
What are the causes of Hypertension?
The causes of hypertension may vary from person to person. Here are some underlying diseases such as:
- Renal disease affects the renal mechanisms to regulate blood pressure in the body
- Hypothyroidism I-e. not enough production of thyroid hormone may result in lowering of blood volume.
- Obstructive sleep apnea with sudden blood oxygen drop might lead to hypertension
- Hypercholesterolemia may lead to narrowing of arteries and more blood resistance
- Long term use of Medicines such as Birth control pills, steroids and hormones may cause hypertension
- Excessive alcohol intake more than 2 glass a day will increase your blood pressure.
- Congenital birth defects of the blood vessels also cause hypertension.
What is the treatment for Hypertension?
Treatment is prescribed as per the blood pressure readings of the individual. If the blood pressure is persistently greater than 160mm Hg/100 mmHg, medication is prescribed along with lifestyle modification. Many people take one or combination of the following class of drugs.
- Diuretics: they Remove excess of salt and water from the body. They take away the sodium from the body through urine. These are called water pills and must be taken during the day to avoid discomfort due to frequent urination.
- Angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors): They improve the blood flow towards the heart by dilating the blood vessels. Dry cough and itchy skin rash are the major side effects with these drugs.
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers ARBs: they work in a similar way to the ACE inhibitors. These are preferred to ACE inhibitors as they do not produce dry cough like ACE inhibitors. However headache and flu like symptoms are common side effects
- Calcium channel blockers and beta blockers are also prescribed in combination with other medicines.
What foods are good for Hypertension?
Hypertension may progress to heart diseases and stroke if left untreated. Eating healthy, maintaining a healthy life style and regular exercise are the key ways to prevent the cardiac complications associated with hypertension.
A diet that is having good amount of fiber, potassium and less amount of sodium is the right food for hypertension. Therefore, doctors’ suggest taking Green leafy vegetables, beans, berries and legumes in sufficient quantities. Using canned food and carbonated drinks is not preferable if you have hypertension.
- 2 cups chop kale
- 2 small limes
- 1 thumb line ginger (roughly an inch)
- 1 zucchini (english)
- 2 granny smith apples
- 4 celery stalks
Potassium rich foods:
Potassium helps ease tension in your blood vessels. The more potassium you eat the more sodium you lose by urination. This helps lower the blood pressure. Many doctors prescribe potassium sparing diuretics like spironolactone in hypertension if you are low in potassium. High amount potassium is found in many fruits and vegetables such as:
- Bananas, honeydew, apricot and grape fruits
- Dried Raisins, prunes and dates
- Spinach, cucumber, zucchini and broccoli
- Fat free milk and yogurt
- Tuna , cod and trout fish
- Leafy greens
- Beans such as kidney beans and lentils
- Whole wheat bread and pasta
- Nuts and brown rice
Magnesium containing food
Magnesium is the fourth abundant mineral in the body. It regulates important metabolic reactions in the body such as muscle contraction, blood pressure regulation and energy production. Magnesium rich foods include:
- Nuts such as Hazelnut, walnut and almonds
- Bran oat, cereal, brown rice and barley
- vegetables such as Spinach and kale
- Fruits such as Avocado, banana, raspberries
- Dark chocolate
- Seeds such as flax seeds, pumpkin seeds and chia seeds
- Salmon fish
High fiber diet
Fibers are undigested carbohydrates in your body. Dietary fiber is beneficial in diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension. Fiber adds to the bulk of digestive tract stimulating the intestine and prevents constipation. Intake of 20 grams to 30 grams of fiber is recommended for a healthy subject daily.
- Pears, apples, bananas.
- Strawberries, blueberries and raspberries
- Carrots, beets and broccoli
- Kidney beans, split peas and chickpeas
Omega 3 Fatty acids:
Omega 3 fatty acids have proven benefits in people with cardiac complications and hypertension. They are of three types’namely: alpha linoleic acid (ALA), eicosapantaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is found in flaxseed. DHA and EPA are sourced from seafood. These fats lower the chance of formation of plaque in the arteries. A healthy adult needs 250 mg to 300 mg of omega 3 fatty acids daily.
Certain foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids are listed below
- Nuts like walnuts and seeds like flaxseeds, chia seeds
- Brussels sprouts
- Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, water cress
What foods are to be avoided in Hypertension?
Health is a valuable asset and to ensure good health you should eat healthy. American health association AHA suggests DASH plan to combat hypertension. DASH plan suggest taking food that is high in nutrients such as potassium, magnesium and calcium and limiting nutrients such as sodium for patients with hypertension. Along with salt the nutritionists limit the amount of sugar, saturated fats, red meats and processed food in hypertensive patients.
Certain diet not very beneficial in hypertension includes
Food that contain high amount of Sugar:
High sugar containing foods inhibit the vascular dilation by inhibiting the production of Nitric oxide. It is a natural vasodilator in the body. This causes increased vascular resistance.
- Carbonated drinks, junk foods, fast foods etc. all contain high carbohydrate content
- Potato, sweet potato, and their extracts
- Chocolates and bakery goods containing high gluten content
- Fruits such as mango, lychee, grapes, and berries.
Sodium containing foods:
For a patient with hypertension the amount of sodium per day should be kept as low as 2-3gm. High sodium content in the body causes water retention and edema. More water means more blood volume. Higher the volume means more the blood pressure.
Sodium containing foods include:
- Pickled jalapenos
- Sunflower seeds dried and roasted
- Canned beans and baked beans have added salt in them
- French bread and parmesan cheese
- Processed meat (deli meat)
What is considered high sodium in food?
|Low sodium||High sodium|
|Concentration per serving (mg)||Less than 150||More than 400|
Foods with saturated or Tran’s fats:
Saturated fats increase the high density lipoproteins (HDL) and decrease the low density lipoproteins (LDL). High levels of HDLS are harmful they increase the cholesterol levels. Therefore, they put you at risk for hypertension.
The following food have high saturated fats:
- Butter , cream and cheese
- Palm oil , coconut oil
- Meat and sausages
“Good health is not something we can buy. However, it can be an extremely valuable savings account” the quote says it all. Health is the biggest asset that is priceless and precious. We all want to be able to be fit and healthy to play with our grand kids. Or have a life that is not dependent upon consumption of 3 to 4 tablets in a day. These are the basic dreams that everyone hopes for. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is the one ad only key to achieving all these dreams. Remember! You matter to your family and you’re worth it.