HYPERTENSION AND DIETARY MANAGEMENT
Article written by :
M.sc in Dietetics and Community Nutrition Management (V.U.)
Certified Diabetic Educator
Globalization and economic progress have been accompanied with an increase in the incidence of non-communicable illness, hypertension is one of them. Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure. Hypertension also called “Silent killer” is a chronic medical condition characterized by constant elevation of the systolic or diastolic pressure above 140/90mmhg. It is not a disease but only a symptom which indicates that some underlying disease is in progress.
There are two types of hypertension which are the primary (essential) hypertension and secondary hypertension. Essential hypertension is referred to as patients with hypertension without any secondary identifiable cause. Secondary hypertension has an identifiable cause, such as renal artery stenosis and is managed as part of the primary condition.
There are different causes for hypertension.
- Lack of exercise
- Excessive intake of Salt
- Alcohol consumption
- Heredity/Family history
Though the above stated factors may cause hypertension in some cases it may be idiopathic. Hypertension is treatable with lifestyle modification.
In most of the cases hypertension is asymptomatic. But at times it may be associated with the following-
- Impaired vision
- Failing memory
- Chest pain
Ignoring the signs & symptoms could be detrimental for our health, as uncontrolled hypertension can affect the blood vessels carrying oxygen to heart which in turn can lead to thrombosis of heart. Kidneys get affected in the same way resulting in water retention, pedal oedema and in severe cases kidney failure. Hypertension results in blurred vision and impaired functioning of brain resulting in dementia and ultimately stroke.
- Low fat diet should be given to those who are prone to atherosclerosis, saturated fat like ghee, butter, cheese, margarine; fried items, mutton, beef, pork etc should be avoided in such cases.
- Complex carbohydrate like whole grains should be included in the diet as it contains fibre and helps in weight reduction. Simple carbohydrate like sugar, honey, jaggery etc should be limited.
- Sodium plays an important role in hypertensive patients. A huge percentage of sodium is present in table salt which increases intravascular volume as well as cardiac output. Low salt diet helps to decrease blood pressure.
- Increasing the potassium content in the diet lowers the blood pressure and improves hypertension. Leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, banana, dab water etc contains high amount of potassium.
- Adequate calcium intake contributes to lowering of blood pressure.Calcium is involved in regulating blood pressure by controlling vascular smooth muscle cell contractility and thus modulating peripheral vascular resistance. Foods rich in calcium are milk and milk products (low fat dairy products), green vegetables, pulses etc.
- We should be careful about food labelling when buying processed and preserved foods because of sodium and trans-fat content.
- Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure to unhealthy levels. Excessive drinking can also contribute cardio myopathy, heart failure, and stroke.
- Although caffeine raises our blood pressure levels very slowly, it does have a negative effect when consumed regularly in huge amount.
Physical activity is commonly recommended as an important lifestyle modification, physical activity makes our heart stronger. A stronger heart can pump more blood with less effort and helps in lowering blood pressure.
Hypertention is a chronic condition .it cannot be cured but can be controlled by proper balanced diet and lifestyle modification. Lastly, Hypertension is a silent disease, but it’s “silence is not golden”.