A healthy heart is central to overall good health and following a heart-friendly lifestyle will prevent heart diseases while encompassing a well-balanced diet and taking care of external factors also contributes in keeping the heart healthy and controlling blood pressure or hypertension. Prolonged hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a major risk factor for severe medical conditions such as coronary artery disease, stroke, heart failure, atrial fibrillation, vision loss, chronic kidney disease and even dementia.
It has become a serious issue owing to the lifestyle we lead and our preferences to junk food, irregular sleep patterns and stress are major contributors to this chronic illness. High stress levels, obesity, sedentary lifestyle and poor dietary habits are some of the main reasons for hypertension in young people which is affecting more than 30% of the adult population worldwide or more than one billion people around the world, especially more during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Trupti Gilada, Consultant Physician in Infectious Disease at Mumbai’s Masina Hospital, suggested, “The most important change in food for those with hypertension is avoiding food items with high sodium content which include pickles, papads, bakery products (biscuits, bread etc) and canned, preserved products and junk food. Table salt is a strict no. Diet rich in fruits and vegetables and legumes must be included.”
Hypertension impairs the pumping function of the heart and if untreated damages the heart, brain and kidneys. Stroke occurs more often in patients with high blood pressure hence, Dr Shaziya Khan, Clinical Dietician and certified diabetic educator at Jain Multispecialty Hospital, recommended DASH diet to control high blood pressure. She suggested that according to DASH, the following diet may bring about a healthy reduction in blood pressure:
1. High amount of fruits and vegetables – Among them, banana, watermelon Beetroot, carrots, oranges, pomegranate and amla are highly recommended because these fruits and vegetables are rich in potassium and as per study, potassium rich foods are important in managing blood pressure because potassium lessens the effects of sodium. The more potassium rich food you eat the more Sodium you lose through urine. Potassium also helps to case tension in you’re blood vessels walls, which helps further to lower blood pressure.
2. Inclusion of fish – It has been found that oily fish such as Sardines, mackarel salmons could help protect our heart from diseases, as they are very rich in an important type of polyunsaturated fat called omega -3 which has been shown to help lower the blood pressure.
3. Inclusion of low fat milk – Milk products contain key blood pressure lowering nutrients including calcium potassium and magnesium. Milk products also contain a special type of proteins called bioactive peptides which have been shown to have a positive effect on blood pressure control but keep in mind that the DASH diet stresses low fat and fat free milk products.
4. Reducing the fat intake – Study found that diet with reduced saturated and total fat (specially found in ghee, butter, cheese and red meat) significantly lowered the blood pressure.
5. Reducing sodium – Salt intake of less than 5 grams (1 tsp) per day for adults helps to reduce blood pressure. To limit the sodium intake one should restrict foods high in sodium like processed foods, ajinomoto, baking powder, salt preserved foods like papad, pickle shell fish, dry fish, soup cubes sauce and salted butter.