Hypertension: Everything you need to know – Part 3

Hypertension: Everything you need to know – Part 3

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

Benjamin Franklin

The consequences of untreated or uncontrolled hypertension in our preceding articles of this series would prompt you to explore the ways to prevent this dreadful disease.
Let us now look into the precautions to be taken by an individual who do not have hypertension or is a pre-hypertensive and even by those looking to control their blood pressure.

Achieve a healthy weight

Ways to prevent hypertension:
● Maintaining healthy weight
● Having a balanced diet
● Being physically active
● Taking a low sodium diet
● Consuming moderate or no alcohol

Being overweight or obese increases the risk of hypertension. There are two ways to determine whether you are normal, overweight or obese; BMI (body mass index) and the waist circumference.
BMI is a measure of the body weight against height. BMI overlooks factors like high muscular weight or fluid retention due to which total weight may be higher for some individuals.

Hence, waist measurement is checked as well. A waist measurement of more than 94 cm (about 37 inches) for men and more than 80 cm (about 31.5 inches) for women is considered high and a risk factor. (1)

BMI Chart For Asians And Asian Americans

BMI Weight Status Result
<18.5 Underweight Try to achieve ideal body weight
18.5-22.9 Healthy Weight Good; try not to gain weight
23-26.9 Overweight Make healthy lifestyle changes to lose weight
>=27 Obese Highest risk category; take immediate steps to lose weight under proper guidance.
Asian BMI Calculator - Asian American Diabetes Initiative

If you need to lose weight, do it slowly and healthily by eating right and following a proper exercise regime.

Being Active

Our bodies do not need vigorous exercises to keep ourselves healthy and disease free; all it needs is just thirty minutes of moderate-level physical activity at least five days a week.

Examples of such activities are brisk walking, cycling, aerobics, gardening, yoga, swimming, stair climbing or simply play an outdoor sport.

Don’t have thirty minutes at a stretch? - No worries!! You can divide it into ten minutes (at least) of short periods. Being physically active on a regular basis is better as compared to doing intermittent vigorous workouts.

If you are already doing the minimum required activity then either engage yourself for a longer period or a slightly more vigorous activity. Do check with your family physician before starting any intense exercise regime.

Eat Right

For an overall eating plan, the DASH diet is recommended which stands for 'Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension' and is backed by researches of many health institutes. It is based on a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and low –fat foods. This particular diet has shown to lower blood pressure in just 14 days.

A reference DASH diet plan based on a 2,000-calorie requirement plan; the number of servings within a food group may vary depending on your calorie needs.

FOOD GROUP SERVINGS SERVING SIZES Significance
Grain and grain products (Include at least three whole grain products each day) 7-8 1 whole wheat roti/bread ½ cup oats/poha/rice Carbohydrates and fiber
Vegetables 4-5 1 cup raw vegetable ½ cup cooked vegetable Potassium, magnesium and fiber
Fruits 4-5 1 medium fruit Potassium, magnesium and fiber
Low fat or fat free dairy foods 2-3 1 cup yogurt 200 ml milk
Lean meat, poultry or fish 2 or less Palm size of cooked portion
Nuts, seeds and legumes 4-5 per week ½ cup cooked legumes 1 tablespoon seeds 1/3 cup nuts
Fats and oils 2-3 1 teaspoon vegetable oil 2 tablespoon light salad dressing
Sweets 5 per week 1 tablespoon sugar 200 ml lemonade
Reference DASH Diet Plan - NIH

Easy Tips To Switch To DASH

  • Change gradually. Add at least one more serving of fruit and vegetable at lunch and dinner.
  • Reduce oil or fat intake by at least 30-40% of current consumption
  • Use fresh fruits instead of ice creams and other desserts.
  • Start preparing foods at home more often.
  • Use smaller portions and eat slowly and cut back gradually.
  • Snack on vegetable sticks, unsalted popcorn or fruits instead of fried snacks.

Less Sodium

Using less sodium is a key to keeping blood pressure at a healthy level. Most of us use more than a teaspoon of table salt (6 g of salt or 2,400 mgs of sodium) which is the recommended daily intake. The six grams includes all salt and sodium included in cooking and at the table.

Other Minerals

Potassium plays an important role in the treatment of hypertension. Potassium along with sodium regulates the body’s water balance. Potassium rich foods like fruits and vegetables should be eaten every day.

Research shows that a lower intake of calcium increases the risk of high blood pressure. Inclusion of calcium rich foods like dairy products and green leafy vegetables on a daily basis is crucial.

Tips for tasty food even on a low Salt and Sodium Diet

  • Buy fresh, seasonal produce only.
  • Use fresh poultry, fish and lean meat over processed or canned foods which carry unhealthy additional sodium content.
  • Use herbs and spices and salt free seasonings. Basil, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, oregano, thyme, parsley, sage rosemary enhance the taste of a less salt food too.
  • Use salt adjuncts like lemon, tamarind, vinegar, amchoor powder to make up for the less salt.
  • Rinse canned or preserved foods to wash away some sodium.
  • Check food labels before buying packaged foods. Soy sauce, MSG (mono- sodium glutamate), and so many others which have sodium in them.

Caution With Alcohol

Though last on the list, but one of the major causes for high blood pressure; it can also damage the liver, brain and heart. And yes, carries good amount of calories along so weight watchers, beware!!

The recommended amounts are one drink a day for a woman and only two drinks a day for a man.

A drink is equivalent to around 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1 ½ ounce of whisky.

Stress Management

Though there is no direct link between stress and high blood pressure, taking steps to reduce stress will definitely improve general health including your blood pressure.

A calm and peaceful is said to have the maximum healing power. Nourish your mind with the right ingredients of happiness, positivity, kindness, contentment, awareness. Meditation and Pranayama correct a range of health problems. Cultivate any hobby long forgotten; make sure to fit in adequate hours of sleep on a regular basis.

Takeaway

All the above measures are definitely doable even in an extremely tight schedule of balancing work and family. Do try it out and feel a NEW YOU!!

Also read other articles in this series for complete and practical step-by-step solutions.

Hypertension: Everything you need to know – Part 1

Hypertension: Everything you need to know – Part 2

Hypertension: Everything you need to know – Part 4

Disclaimer

The above article is for informational purposes and should not be considered as medical advice. Please consult a qualified medical doctor for accurate diagnosis and treatment for any symptoms/ailments.

References

Heart Foundation - Know Your Risks

Joslin - Asian BMI Calculator

NIH - DASH Eating Plan

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