Hypertension or High Blood Pressure, as it is commonly called, is a condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is chronically elevated. With each heart beat, heart pumps blood through the arteries to the body. Blood pressure is the pressure or force with which blood is pushed against the walls of the blood vessels. If the pressure is too high, the heart has to pump harder which in turn can damage the body organ and cause illnesses like stroke, heart attack, heart failure, or renal failure.
Hypertension in India is emerging as a major health problem, that is more prevalent in urban than in rural India. Normal blood pressure is below 120/80, where 120 represents systolic measure (highest pressure in arteries) and 80 represents diastolic measure (lowest pressure in arteries). A pressure of 140/90 and above is considered hypertension. Hypertension can be due to many factors namely-
1. Sedentary lifestyle 2. Lack of physical activity 3. Obesity or overweight 4. High salt intake 5. High intake of processed food items like- chips, bakery products, cheese etc. 6. Stress 7. Aging 8. Excessive alcohol consumption 9. Genetics and family history of hypertension However, hypertension can be easy to control if diagnosed at an early stage and with lifestyle modifications. Changes in diet and increase in physical activity levels can have a great impact on controlling high blood pressure Reducing salt intake: Salt is known to be an important cause of hypertension.
Therefore, a diet low in sodium, viz. recommended sodium intake- 1500mg, which is equivalent to 6gm salt or 1 leveled teaspoon of salt, is suitable for body and heart. DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) diet that recommends 1500mg sodium intake, along with high intake of fruits and vegetables is known to have beneficial effects in controlling blood pressure. Though the market is flooded with processed foods, they are a complete NO for hypertension or heart patients. Processed foods like- breads, chips, nachos, processed cheese, ready-made soups, cookies, etc. are high in sodium in the form of salt or baking soda (sodium bicarbonate).
Now-a-days many food companies are producing salts with “low sodium content”. However, they are excessively high in potassium, and excess of any mineral is deleterious for the body. Fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables have a positive impact in controlling and maintaining blood pressure within the recommended level. Fruits are primarily a source of minerals and most important amongst them is potassium. Besides minerals, the high fiber content is healthy for the heart. Watching your weight: Diet rich in carbohydrates and fats is calorie dense. Excessive calorie intake and eventual weight gain is harmful to individuals with blood pressure.
A diet with more complex carbohydrates, proteins from pulses or lean meat, high fruit and vegetable intake helps not just to maintain weight but is also heart healthy. Products like- chips, processed juices, cookies, instant noodles, cakes, achars, papad, namkeens, nachos are high in salt/sodium and are not suitable for hypertensive individuals. However, food without salt is difficult to sustain for long period of time. But, there are substitute that can be added to your daily meal that will help make the food palatable and interesting. Salt can be substituted with lemon juice, vinegar, mint chutney (with raw mango and less salt), imli chutney to add taste to your meal. Eating in moderation and physical exercise are mantra for healthy life!