This week is Hypertension week and so we decided to shed some more light on one of the most common lifestyle conditions in our population. In South Africa, Hypertension is as high as 1 in every 4 people between the age of 15-64 years old.
What is Hypertension?
Hypertension (HPT) is the medical term used for high blood pressure. A BP that is above 130/80 mmHg is considered to be high. Your blood pressure is the measure of your systolic pressure (pressure in arteries due to heart contacting) over the diastolic (pressure in arteries due to heart relaxing).
Why the fuss about Hypertension?
The concern is 2-fold; firstly hypertension is known as the silent killer. This means that many people do not realize they have hypertension as it has no signs and symptoms and so can go undetected for years. If patients do not go for regular check-ups. The problem with this is that if not controlled, it can do irreversible damage to our bodies. By the time it is diagnosed, patients have to live with not only the HPT but also the damaged it has caused. This leads to our second point; hypertension is a risk factor for many other life-changing conditions: heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, kidney and eye disease.
Thankfully, hypertension can be well controlled with the use of medication (prescribed by your doctor) and lifestyle modifications. These lifestyle modifications include healthy diet, exercise, managing your stress, weight loss to a healthy weight, reducing alcohol intake and quitting smoking (if you are a smoker).
The DASH diet and Hypertension
One of the largest recommended diets for Hypertension is the DASH diet; which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This diet focuses on fresh and unprocessed foods:
- Eat more fruits and vegetables
- Cut back on foods that are high in saturated fat, cholesterol, and trans fats (lean meats, fish, poultry and low-fat dairy foods)
- Eat more whole-grain foods, plant proteins and nuts
- Limit sodium, sweets, sugary drinks, and red meats
Obviously these recommendations apply to most people as they follow the healthy eating guidelines but the further limiting of salt is a big point for your hypertension diet. General recommendation for salt restriction is less than 2mg of sodium a day. However, for hypertension patients this should be less than 1.2 mg. For more tips on how to reduce your salt intake please refer to our article Skimp on the salt.