World Hypertension Day: Improve your blood pressure with minute changes in your diet and lifestyle

World Hypertension Day: Improve your blood pressure with minute changes in your diet and lifestyle

Covid-19 has definitely changed the way we used to live. Some of us have accepted the change and are looking at the positive side of the pandemic while a few people are worried about the future and are stressing themselves and their near and dear ones. Many of them are suffering from hypertension. Ahead of the World Hypertension Day (May 17), experts share some insight into what hypertension exactly is and how to tackle it by making basic changes in your diet and lifestyle. 

As per the , the expanded theme for World Hypertension Day is ‘Measure Your Blood Pressure, Control It, Live Longer’, with a goal of increasing high blood pressure (BP) awareness in all populations around the world. 

What is hypertension? 

Many people confuse stress, fear or tension with hypertension. Dr Gulshan Kumar, neurophysiologist, NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences), says that hypertension can be defined as abnormal high blood pressure in arteries. According to the Joint National Committee 7 (JNC7), it is defined as systolic BP (when the heart is contracting) level of ≥140 mmHg and/or diastolic BP (when the heart rests between beats) level ≥90 mmHg. The normal systolic BP is <120 mmHg and diastolic BP <80 mmHg. 

Hypertension is a silent killer as very rarely symptoms can be seen in its early stages. It only manifests when a severe medical crisis takes place like heart attack, stroke, or chronic kidney disease. 

“Since people are unaware of excessive blood pressure, it is only through measurements that detection can be done. Majority of patients don’t have any symptoms but some people report headaches, dizziness, vertigo, fainting episodes,” Dr Kumar says. 

Common causes 

Various factors come into the picture like genetics, lack of exercise, excessive intake of salt, sleep apnea, obesity, caffeine, alcohol, and diet. 

Also, if we look at the current situation, people are working multiple hours and are engrossed in a sedentary lifestyle, which could also be a reason for hypertension. “During lockdown, most people are leading a sedentary life. Lack of exercise leads to obesity and there is thickening of blood vessels. This causes an increase in hypertension,” says Kumar, adding, “Weight loss, regular exercise, intake of fruits and vegetables, potassium-rich diet, low fat dietary products, no smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, and low sodium diet are highly effective in controlling you BP.” 

Know what you eat 

Food plays a major role in solving a lot of issues related to your body. Therefore, Kumar says that adopting a diet rich in plant-based foods, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and sodium intake within normal limits can be effective in the prevention and management of hypertension.

  • Whole grains: An increase in the intake of whole grains can decrease the risk of hypertension by 15 per cent. Whole grains, which are high in viscous fibre (oats, barley), decrease low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and blood pressure and improve glucose and insulin responses. 
  • Vegetables: In meta analysis studies, it has been found that there is an inverse association between the risk of hypertension and vegetable intake. 
  • Fruits: An increase in fruit intake by 100 gm/d was inversely associated with the risk of hypertension. Watermelon extract reduces blood pressure through dilation of blood vessels. Pomegranate juice is also helpful in management of blood pressure and cardiovascular health. Reduce sodium, increase potassium. You can eat banana as it is rich in potassium. 
  • Berries: Berry fruits and berry derived products are commonly consumed in the diet and are considered as one of the best dietary sources in summer. 
  • Nuts: Nuts are nutrient-dense foods and prevent hypertension risks. Try germinated nuts in summer for potential benefits. 
  • Legumes: Moong bean, kidney bean, soyabean, lentils, peas, chickpeas reduce the risk of high blood pressure, and obesity. These foods have a very low glycemic index, high protein and low fat. Germinated legumes and sprouts can be used in dietary management of hypertension. Many studies and trials have demonstrated that protein supplementation or the replacement of protein for fat or carbohydrate in an isocaloric diet results in lower blood pressures. 

Other factors 

In addition to diet, one must take the following things into consideration. 

  • Regular medical check-up. 
  • Dietary habits: Take fruits, vegetables, legumes regularly. 
  • Regular exercise: 30 minutes of physical activity should be performed every day. 
  • Meditation: Transcendental meditation has the potential to reduce blood pressure. 
  • Sleep hygiene: One must sleep for 7-9 hours. We must follow the circadian rhythm of our body — not sleep too late and avoid oversleeping or sleep deprivation.
  • Stress: Avoid work stress, enjoy your work.

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