It is said that no illness which can be treated by a healthy diet should be treated by any other ways and means and that should also be the case with hypertension.
While some people may actually need proper medication to control their blood pressure, most can lower it by adopting some healthy lifestyle changes like losing weight, eating healthy diet, stress management, etc., to name a few. High blood pressure is unknown in primitive cultures that eat a diet rich in unprocessed foods; hypertension is one more trouble that we bring upon ourselves with refined grains, sugar, fatty foods, overeating, stress and sedentary lifestyle, etc.
If you are overweight, begin a programme of gradual weight loss as even beginning to lose weight will lower blood pressure. Keeping those extra kilos off is one of the most important strategies for controlling the blood pressure so even losing a pound a week is a significant stride in the right direction as anything faster may deplete important blood-pressure-regulating minerals such as magnesium and potassium.
High blood pressure may sometimes be accompanied by high blood levels of insulin so hypertensive people who are overweight should restrict carbohydrates to no more than 40% of their diet.
Nutritional factors that affect blood pressure
Sugar: All refined sweeteners are really damaging to hypertensive. Sugar not only depletes many valuable nutrients needed to lower blood pressure but also raises insulin levels which in turn may raise blood pressure.
Garlic: Garlic has been shown in many studies to lower blood pressure.
Celery: Celery has been shown to lower blood pressure by relaxing smooth muscles that line the blood vessel walls.
Vitamin C: This valuable vitamin plays a significant role in keeping your blood pressure under control.
Calcium and magnesium: These two minerals are essential for anyone with hypertension and a myriad of studies indicate that they both lower blood pressure naturally.
Potassium: This mineral also keeps blood pressure in normal ranges. Low levels raise blood pressure and lead to an increase in the extraction of calcium.
Potassium depletion also causes the body to retain more sodium which can also increase blood pressure.
Increase the potassium in your diet by consuming more whole, unprocessed fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, and legumes. Freshly prepared vegetable juices are extraordinary source of potassium.
Role of salt
Salt restriction has been shown to have a modest blood pressure lowering effect in some people and it is advisable for people with high blood pressure to follow a salt-restricted diet. The easiest way to eat the right amount of sodium is to consume foods as unprocessed and as close to their natural state as possible. So avoid all processed/canned foods and do not use the salt shaker. Try to keep salt and sodium intake under 1gm per day, very easily achieved on a diet of natural foods.
Dos and don'ts
Maintain your weight at an ideal level
If you are overweight, lose weight gradually
Eat a well-balanced diet rich in blood pressure nutrients on a daily basis
Eat garlic and onions liberally
Drink as much as fresh vegetable juice as possible
Walk/exercise on a regular basis
Banana, oranges, apricots, peaches, green leafy vegetables, garlic, flaxseed, broccoli, beans, carrots, whole wheat products, wheat bran, walnuts, oats, olive oil, fatty fishes like salmon, tuna, mackerel.
Foods to be avoided
All canned foods, salted junk foods, sauces, pickles, salad oil, dressings, jellies, chips, wafers, aerated drinks, fruit juices, cheese and red meat.
Monika Seth/Nutritionist and diet consultant specialising in weight loss at Al Raffah Hospital