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High blood pressure is one of the most common public health problems in India owing to dietary and lifestyle factors. Normal blood pressure is expected to fall within the range of 120/80 mm of Hg. When systolic blood pressure rises above 140 mm of Hg and diastolic raises above 90 mm of Hg, it is considered to be in the hypertensive range. 

Hypertension is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular diseases and stroke, and is yet considered to be highly modifiable. This implies that it is possible to reduce your risk of heart diseases by simple measures that cater to bring down your blood pressure. But, what are these measures? Inevitably, diet and physical activity are the major factors controlling your blood pressure and management of these will surely help.

Dietary measures to control hypertension include an increase in the intake of fresh fruits and vegetables along with fibres and a reduction in salt consumption. Studies also suggest that a diet rich in potassium is helpful in the management of high blood pressure.

Diet is such a major factor controlling hypertension that research studies have proposed a special type of diet called the DASH diet or Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension for its management.

You’ll learn more about this diet and get a comprehensive picture of the kind of foods that you should be eating along with a list of foods that you must avoid to keep your blood pressure in check.

  1. Good foods for high blood pressure
  2. Foods to avoid with high blood pressure

Hypertensives are often concerned about what not to eat and a reduction in sodium intake is often the most primary approach. But, is that enough? What about the foods that you should be eating that can actually help to lower blood pressure? Yes, there certainly are such foods, which have been evidenced to lower blood pressure. Let’s discuss more about them.

  1. Fish to reduce blood pressure
  2. Potassium to reduce blood pressure
  3. Calcium, magnesium and vitamin C lower blood pressure
  4. Fibre to reduce blood pressure
  5. DASH Diet for hypertension
  6. Proteins reduce blood pressure
  7. Vegetarian diet for reducing blood pressure

Fish to reduce blood pressure

The above relation has totally been favourable for the vegetarian group of individuals, but, does that mean you essentially have to go all vegetarian? Well, maybe not, if you choose what you eat wisely and try to limit your intake. Studies suggest that the consumption of fish and its oil can is beneficial for blood pressure reduction. So, probably you can still enjoy a delectable weekend treat without worrying about your blood pressure.

(Read more: Fish oil benefits)

Potassium to reduce blood pressure

Although macronutrients comprise a major part of your caloric intake and are essential for your daily needs, the role of micronutrients cannot be ignored, especially that of potassium in maintaining your blood pressure. Increasing the intake of potassium has been found to be inversely proportional with systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Even the DASH approach suggests an increased potassium intake to manage blood pressure.

The role of potassium in the diet of hypertensives can be explained on the basis of a research finding, which evidenced that potassium assisted in lowering blood pressure even in hypertensives who consumed a salt-rich diet. Just imagine not having to compromise with the palatability of your food by limiting salt intake and still managing your blood pressure. Amazing, isn’t it?

To utilise these benefits, American Society of Hypertension suggests that you increase potassium intake to 4.7 g per day.

Increasing your potassium intake by almost 0.6 gram per day helps in lowering systolic blood pressure by 1 mm Hg. Further increasing potassium intake by 1 gram can help to reduce systolic blood pressure by 0.9 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by 0.8 mm Hg.

Banana, broccoli, spinach and cantaloupes are a great way of including potassium in your diet. If you do not ensure sufficient intake of potassium, it is likely that your blood pressure will suffer. Potassium restriction leads to an increase in systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 7 mm and 6 mm Hg respectively. So, it is recommended to take care of your consumption.

Calcium, magnesium and vitamin C lower blood pressure

Potassium is not the only mineral that has hypotensive actions. Studies have found a beneficial role of calcium, magnesium and vitamin C but the results have not been consistent. However, sufficient evidence has supported the intake of milk and its products, which contain calcium and some fresh fruits, which contain vitamin C.

Fibre to reduce blood pressure

Some studies suggest that an increase in the dietary intake of soluble and insoluble fibres helps to lower blood pressure but the results are not quite significant. Anyway, the intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, which has been recommended for hypertensives already has enough fibre for your needs.

DASH Diet for hypertension

Since there is a specialised diet for hypertensives, it is only right to discuss it before proceeding on to specific dietary components. The DASH (Diet Approach to Stop Hypertension) approach focuses on increasing the intake of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet to almost double the amount consumed prior. Consumption of low-fat dairy and complex carbohydrates is also doubled.

There are several ways you can add more fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet, ranging from salads to stirred veggies and healthy sandwiches. You can make the use of olive oil or other healthy oils as a salad dressing, which would also ensure the inclusion of healthy fat sources in your diet. Healthy fats also have a role in blood pressure improvement by reducing the risk of atherosclerosis and arterial narrowing. Concerning carbohydrates, the inclusion of complex sources such as quinoa, oats and multigrain rotis as opposed to simple and refined sources like maida has been recommended.

But, why exactly must you follow the DASH diet?

In a study conducted on stage 1 hypertensive patients, it was reported that the DASH diet along with limited intake of sodium significantly assisted in lowering blood pressure. The results were found to be comparable to that of anti-hypertensive medications. What better than reducing blood pressure naturally, without having to rely on medications?

Furthermore, when compared with other diets like a low-fat diet, the DASH diet demonstrated better results and catered to a quicker reduction in blood pressure. So, maybe it’s time that you make some changes and adopt a healthier lifestyle for managing your blood pressure.

Proteins reduce blood pressure

Proteins are one of the macronutrients, which are required in great amounts by your body for its energy needs. But, has it a role in the management of hypertension? Researchers say yes.

A number of studies, both, observational and randomised control, have found results in the favour of protein intake in hypertensive individuals. Supplementation of protein in the diet has been found to lower blood pressure, with a better response being obtained when proteins were exchanged for dietary fats or carbohydrates. Prehypertensives or stage 1 hypertensives may, thus, benefit from the inclusion of more proteins in their diet. Due to such favourable evidence, researchers have suggested that physicians advise hypertensive patients to replace their sources of carbohydrates with a protein substitute as a part of the dietary regimen for the management of hypertension.

So, replacing your bread and rotis with a variety of protein sources like eggs, fish and lean chicken may be a great idea. Don’t worry if you are a vegetarian because vegetarian sources of proteins like milk and soy have found to be equally good.

Vegetarian diet for reducing blood pressure

More good news for vegetarians. Vegetarian diets have actually been found to be better in lowering blood pressure.

Studies suggest that vegetarian diets can help in lowering systolic blood pressure by up to 5 mm Hg. When compared with non-vegetarians, vegetarians were found to have lower blood pressure levels. This can be attributed to increased consumption of fibre among vegetarians due to greater intake of fresh fruits and vegetables. Avoidance of meat in their diet is another contributing factor since meats are calorie-dense foods and generally contain high amounts of fats. Also, studies have found that alcohol consumption tends to be lower among vegetarians, which could be another reason why vegetarians have lower blood pressure.

If you are generally a non-vegetarian, it is likely that reducing the intake of meat and chicken and increasing the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables will help lower blood pressure.

High blood pressure can be worsened by the intake of certain food items, which are:

  • Sodium
    Quite sure you were already aware of this one. Salt or sodium consumption and hypertension have always been foes and there have been innumerable studies to support this relationship. Keeping this in mind, the American Heart Association has recommended consuming not more than 1500mg of sodium per day. It is best that you avoid adding excess salt as a seasoning to your food. You can instead opt for some olive oil and herbs like garlic, which may be helpful.

  • Cheese, pickles, sauces and processed foods
    If you are a hypertensive, it is advisable to consume light, homecooked meals since store-bought and packaged foods often have a higher sodium content than anticipated. Same goes for pickles and sauces, which are highly preserved with salt. Also, some cheeses have a high salt content. So, tkeep your consumption in check. It is recommended to opt for low-fat, sodium-free cheese like cottage cheese, if you are hypertensive.

  • Alcohol
    Alcohol has long been established as a beverage that has been associated with high blood pressure. Moderating alcohol intake is recommended if you cannot do away with its consumption because alcohol intake and blood pressure has been found to have a dose-dependent relationship. This means that a reduction in your alcohol intake will most likely be accompanied by a reduction in blood pressure, as also evidenced by various studies. (Read more: Effects of alcohol on the body)

  • Red meats
    A number of studies have supported vegetarianism for lowering blood pressure. Thus, it is recommended to reduce the consumption of non-vegetarian foods, especially red meats like pork and buff, which have been recognised as a risk factor for several cardiovascular disorders including hypertension.

  • High-fat foods
    Researchers have suggested that calorie reduction determines an ideal approach for the reduction of blood pressure and weight management has been defined as an effective strategy. Independent studies suggest that obesity is a significant risk factor for hypertension, especially in Indians. So, consumption of foods high in fat is inadvisable as a protective measure. (Read more: Weight loss diet chart)

  • Simple carbohydrates
    Eating too many carbohydrates can lead to an increase in weight, which has a direct relationship with hypertension. Other than this, studies have also suggested substituting simple carbohydrates with complex carbohydrates for keeping blood pressure in check. This implies that you must reduce the intake of naan bread, samosa, kachori, bhathuras and refined flour sources to manage hypertension.

  • Coffee
    Caffeine intake has been associated with high blood pressure. So, you must keep your daily consumption in check. (Read more: Benefits of coffee)

  • Liquorice
    The use of liquorice has been suggested to be potentially harmful in hypertensive individuals.

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References

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