Hypertension is a chronic condition where the blood pressure is regularly higher than normal. Under normal circumstances resting blood pressure should be around 120/80, however, those suffering from high blood pressure will have 140/90 and in severe cases 180/120 readings. One of the biggest issues with hypertension is that it often shows no external signs of the condition, but without detection and treatment it causes many complications. Heart disease, stroke and aneurysms are some of the potential risks with untreated hypertension, hence the need to detect and treat hypertension with medication, diet and exercise are necessary.
The effect of constant high blood pressure is damage to your arteries and blood vessels, leading to them getting narrow and which in-turn causes even higher pressure as blood is not able to flow freely around your body. This feedback loop is often the cause of heart attacks and other heart complications. Another possible effect is a ballooning of the artery wall that has been weakened through high-blood pressure. This is called an aneurysm and can also burst, which is a life-threatening event. Most common of all, hypertension affects the amount of blood your heart receives which leads to several heart complications like coronary heart disease, enlargement or thickening on the left side of your heart as well as heart failure. High blood pressure can also have a strong negative impact on your liver, kidneys, brain and eyes.
Certain foods can increase blood pressure and should be avoided, foods that decrease blood pressure should be added to your diet. It is important to note that weight gain also increases blood pressure hence maintaining a healthy normal weight is required for all those with hypertension. This might include dieting for weight loss and reducing the amount of food you eat.
Citrus foods such as oranges and lemons have been shown to have a lowering effect on blood pressure when consumed regularly (and coupled with exercise). Some citrus foods might interfere with blood pressure medication such as grapefruit or grapefruit juice, it’s best to speak with your doctor about it.
Regarding fats in your diet, it is generally advised to avoid or lower consumption of trans fats and saturated fats. These can increase your risk of heart disease, however, omega-3 fats have consistently been linked with lower levels of high blood pressure. Fish are potent sources of omega-3 fats, which aid in blood pressure issues by reducing inflammation and cutting down on levels of oxylipins (oxylipins are compounds that promote blood vessel constriction).
Swiss Chard is a leafy green vegetable that contains ample amounts of potassium and magnesium, both of which are great for reducing overall blood pressure. Magnesium blocks calcium channels, which lowers the content of calcium going into the heart and other blood vessel cells, this brings much-needed relaxation to blood flow.
Legumes and beans are also rich in nutrients as well as magnesium and potassium, but they also contain fibre. This combination is excellent at lowering blood pressure, with several studies showing that it can help blood pressure in people with or without hypertension.
For antioxidant-rich food, berries of all kinds are good for those with hypertension. In berries, the bright colouring comes from anthocyanins, which are pigments that have anti-oxidising properties. While the research is still limited, the general consensus is that blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, etc., all have pressure-lowering abilities of some strength.
Pistachios are nutrient and flavour-rich nuts, containing plenty of nutrients (including potassium) that encourage healthy heart function and proper blood circulation. Among all nuts, a review of multiple studies shows that pistachios had the strongest effect on any actual reduction of blood pressure. If you’re going to include nuts in your diet for lowering hypertension, make sure pistachios are one of them. If you’re allergic to any other nuts you might also have an allergic reaction when consuming pistachios, kindly check with your doctor in advance.
While vegetables like carrots, celery, tomatoes as well as tomato products are great for a common healthy diet, they are also exceptionally good to help lower blood pressure. Carrots contain chlorogenic, p-coumaric as well as caffeic acids which help relax blood vessels, this in turn, can have lowering effects on your blood pressure. Similarly, celery and tomatoes contain various nutrients like phthalides and lycopene respectively, which both contribute to better blood pressure.
While these foods can help, it is important to make changes to your lifestyle as well. These may include cutting down or stopping smoking/alcohol, getting more regular exercise and stress management. Fast food will need to be cut out from your diet, especially high fat-content items and possibly high sugar beverages as well. These have a tendency of causing inflammation in the arteries. Your doctor will also prescribe medications that you might need to take on a daily basis, or if your hypertension is mild you might be prescribed medication to take only when your pressure gets too high. Most sufferers of hypertension need to take daily measurements of their blood pressure and share this data regularly with their doctor, this is part of the treatment and management for the disease.