Taking charge of your high blood pressure
Being diagnosed with high blood pressure, is not the end of the world as some might think. This is because you can lower your high blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease without medication by adopting a proper diet as well as making lifestyle changes.
To Connie Igwe, a nutritionist and lifestyle coach, one way to do this is to have an eating plan that will help you control it. This is where The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) comes in.
“DASH places emphasis on eating whole grains, vegetables, fruit, nuts and low-fat dairy products, while limiting or avoiding salt, fat, and sugar overall,” she said.
She noted that a high BP diet should be high in vitamins, antioxidants, potassium and magnesium and these are found mostly in vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains and others.
Suitable foods for controlling high BP include tiger nuts (which are rich in potassium and magnesium and help in lowering high BP), guavas, bananas, beans and cabbage.
Tiger nuts contain high content of amino acid arginine which helps the body make nitric oxide that keeps our blood vessels dilated and have a normal blood flow.
Guavas are beneficial in regulating blood pressure due to its high potassium content, which reverses the effects of sodium, thereby regulating the balance of blood pressure. Also, it reduces cholesterol levels in the blood by preventing it from thickening.
Beans are high in fibre, magnesium and potassium. Having a bowl of breakfast cereal, especially whole-grain, high-fibre cereals like oatmeal, oat squares, bran flakes or shredded wheat, can reduce your chance of developing high blood pressure.
Other foods include African yam, sweet potato, garlic, onions, tilapia, olive oil and beetroot. These foods play an important role in lowering blood pressure as they are good sources of vitamin B-6. This vitamin is important in protecting blood vessels from damage. Vitamin B-6 also breaks down a material known as homocysteine, which increases the risk of medical conditions such as heart attacks and strokes.
Foods to avoid
While it is important for high BP sufferers to know the right foods to consume, they also need to be aware of the food items to avoid, to keep blood pressure to a normal level.
Top among these is sodium, commonly known as salt. Consumption of excess salt in foods not only increases the chance of high BP, but also damages the heart and arteries. For a patient with high BP, ideal salt intake should not be more than 2,400 milligrams or 1 teaspoon of salt every day. To add flavour and taste to your food, use herbs or spices.
Red meat is another food item that should not be included in a high BP diet. This is because red meat may contain chemicals and toxic substances consumed by the animal. This is not suitable for the body and can increase the chances of high BP. White meat such as fish and poultry are recommended for such patients along with plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts.
Other food items that patients suffering from high BP should avoid include fats, sugar, alcohol and processed and packaged foods (most of which are high in salt, fats and preservatives and do not contain essential nutrients) among others.
Another way of lowering your blood pressure naturally is by regular physical activity. Doing a form of exercise at least 30 minutes most days of the week can lower your blood pressure by 4 to 9 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). It’s important to be consistent because if you stop exercising, your blood pressure can rise again.
If you have slightly high blood pressure (prehypertension), exercise can help you avoid developing full-blown hypertension. If you already have hypertension, regular physical activity can bring your blood pressure down to safer levels.
The best forms of exercise for lowering blood pressure include walking, jogging, cycling, swimming or dancing. Strength training can also help reduce blood pressure. You should talk to your doctor about developing an exercise program that’s suitable for you.