Mild to moderate hypertension can be treated by diet restriction, controlling weight, cessation of smoking, alcohol restriction and regular sustained physical activity.
Hypertension can be managed by diet restriction
- Quit smoking if you have hypertension and want to lose weight
- Weight loss leads to lowering of blood pressure
- Balanced hypo-caloric diet plan should be adopted to achieve weight loss
Hypertension is defined as sustained high blood pressure in the arteries. Common risk factors include ageing, male gender, urban life, heredity and most importantly obesity and less physical activity. Mild to moderate hypertension can be treated by diet restriction, controlling weight, cessation of smoking, alcohol restriction and regular sustained physical activity. Severe hypertension needs to be treated with medicines besides all the above lifestyle changes.
The nutritional management of hypertension involves the following lifestyle changes-
1. Weight reduction: The majority of hypertensive patients are obese. Weight loss leads to lowering of blood pressure. A balanced hypo-caloric diet plan should be adopted to achieve weight loss. So try to achieve and maintain body weight within desirable range.
2. Physical activity: One should engage in regular physical activity for at least 30-40 minutes for at least 5 days a week. It also accelerates the process of weight loss.
3. Restrict alcohol intake: Alcohol intake should be limited to a maximum of 2 drinks, twice a week.
4. Quit smoking: Smoking hampers your weight management process in many ways. Quit smoking if you have hypertension and want to lose weight.
DASH (Dietary approaches to stop hypertension) eating plan: It is a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, low-fat dairy products, seafood and a reduced amount of total fat as well as saturated fat.
1. Carbohydrates should provide 60-65 percent of total calories. Complex carbohydrates rich in dietary fiber should be consumed. Simple sugars and refined flour should be omitted.
2. 20 percent of the energy to be obtained from fats. Cut out on saturated fats and trans fats. The Polyunsaturated to Saturated (P/S) ratio should be 1 or above.
3. Proteins should provide upto 20 percent of total energy. Animal proteins are usually also high in saturated fat and sodium, so they should be avoided. Include whole legumes and low-fat dairy to meet protein requirement.
4. Sodium is the main nutrient of concern. Sodium restriction is very effective in controlling mild to moderate hypertension. Do not use:
1. Salt at the table
2. Salt preserved foods like salted or smoked meats
3. Crackers, potato chips, salted popcorns, salted nuts, salted seeds
4. Foods with baking powder or baking soda such as breads
5. Foods with sodium as preservative such as ketchup, chili sauce, soya sauce, garlic sauce, pickles, chutneys etc.
6. Flavor enhancer such as monosodium glutamate (ajinomotto)
7. Salted butter, processed cheese
8. Canned vegetables in brine
5. Less salt should be used in cooking. Low sodium condiments like lemon, tamarind, vinegar, herbs, spices, garlic etc should be used to improve the taste of food.
6. Potassium, calcium, magnesium and fiber are nutrients useful in controlling hypertension. Potassium rich diet is an essential part of the treatment. Some high-potassium, low-sodium foods include potatoes, bananas, squashes, apricots, legumes etc.
7. Other foods rich in potassium, magnesium and fibre include apple, beet greens, broccoli, carrots, beans, dates, grapes, mango, melons, orange, peaches, pineapple, raisins, spinach, strawberry, tomato, sweet potato, tuna and yoghurt.
8. DASH diets limit red meats, refined flour, and added sugar, sugar containing beverages, added salt, and highly processed foods.
9. Some experts recommend supplements of fiber (psyllium husk), calcium, magnesium, potassium, coenzyme Q10 and omega 3 fatty acids. Discuss with your doctor before you start any supplements as they may interact with medicines.
(Pooja Malhotra is a nutritionist based in Delhi)
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