How to Manage Hypertension Through Proper Diet

What is Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is the force of the blood pushing against the walls of the arteries. Each time the heart beats (about 60-70 times a minute at rest), it pumps out blood into the arteries. Your blood pressure is at its highest when the heart beats, pumping the blood.

Blood Pressure
Blood Pressure Ranges

Most adults in India have blood pressure readings in the range from 120 over 80 (120/80) to 140 over 90 (140/90). If your blood pressure is within this range, you should be taking steps to bring it down or to stop it rising any further.

Blood Pressure Symptoms

Dietary Management

The current nutritional therapy focuses on weight management, sodium control and general nutrient balance.

Objectives of Diet therapy are:

  • To achieve a gradual weight loss in obese and overweight individuals and maintain their weight below the normal weight.
  • To reduce the sodium intake.
  • To maintain adequate nutrition.

To achieve the above objectives, the prudent diet is further modified as below.

Diet and Feeding Pattern

As low energy diets are essentially low-fat diets, the quantity of fat should be reduced. The diet has to be modified so as to raise the PUFA/SFA ratio to 1 or above. To achieve this, saturated fats should be substituted with polyunsaturated fats.

Food Sources

The diet for hypertensive patients is essentially a normal diet. The major modification is in the salt or sodium content. As no salt is to be used in cooking, the main aim in food preparation is to make it palatable by the use of alternate seasonings.

Good food sources of potassium should be included in the diet, especially for patients who are on drug therapy with diuretics. Some of the foods that are high in potassium but low in sodium are squashes, bananas, apricots and legumes, which can be included in the diet.

Sodium Restricted Diets

  • Extreme Restriction :  200-300 mg (9 –30mEq)/day (1 mEq = 23 mg) No salt in cooking, low sodium foods in measured amounts. Conditions like cirrhosis of the liver, edema, congestive heart failure etc.
  • Severe Restriction: 500 to 700 mg /day  No salt in cooking, low sodium foods in measured amounts. Conditions like cirrhosis of liver, oedema, congestive heart failure. (End-stage renal disease, edema, and patients not on dialysis)
  • Moderate Restriction: 1000 to 1500 mg/day  No salt in cooking, avoid salty foods. Conditions like borderline hypertensive or as maintenance diet at home.
  • Mild Restriction:  2000 to 3000 mg/day  It can be easily maintained with the lifestyle changes. Small measurable amount in cooking, no table salt, no salty foods.

Major Sources of Sodium in Diet

Common salt, meat, fish, poultry, egg white, pickled vegetable, meat, fish, dry fish, canned vegetable, baked item, certain green leafy vegetables like spinach, fenugreek leaves etc.
Low Sodium food resources: Fruits, unsalted cereals, unsalted butter, oil, sugar, puffed rice, broccoli, unsalted popcorn, cucumber, chickpeas etc.
Other Sodium containing compounds: Baking powder, baking soda, MSG, sodium acetate, drinking water which is softened alkalizes, laxatives, sedatives etc.
Salt substitutes: Meat and fish may be marinated in vinegar, low French dressing, lime juice before cooking. low sodium baking powder, unsalted butter in moderation, sugar, cinnamons, tamarind extract, herbs, spices, onion, garlic etc.

Points to keep in mind when having high BP

  • To enhance the flavor and palatability of food use lime, vinegar and tamarind in your cooking.
  • Include raw salads and tomatoes in your diet for variety and palatability.
  • Improve the palatability of your diet by the use of herbs, condiments, lemon, tamarind, amchur powder, garlic, ginger, green chills etc.

Food to avoid

Cooking salt, baking powder, soda bicarb, canned foods, cheese all varieties, sausages, pickles, commercial salad dressings and soft drinks containing sodium benzoate, soup cubes, proprietary drinks, Bournvita and chocolate drinks, dehydrated and pre-packed meals like ready to eat meals.

This is a guest post by Khyati Rupani, an accomplished dietitian and founder of Balance Nutrition.

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