Now that we have an idea of what hypertension is, let’s look at ways to to prevent it. If you haven’t read the first part you can read it by clicking here.
For the majority of people, a change in diet and lifestyle alone can treat high blood pressure however some people may require medication. Your doctor will advise you on the changes you can make and if required will put you on medication.
1. Salt intake
Reduce salt intake to less than 6g per day. This is roughly the amount of one teaspoon. Also take note that some foods, particularly processed and packaged foods, contain sodium instead of table salt. Table salt is approximately 40% sodium and as such the daily intake for sodium is much lower. It’s recommended that it should not be more than 1500mg to 2300mg per day. So always make a point to check your food labels for sodium content. You can also reduce your intake of salt by reducing intake or having small amounts of foods that contain high salt such as:
- salted and dry-roasted nuts
- salt fish
- smoked meat and fish
- soy sauce
- stock cubes
- yeast extract
This is not an exhaustive list and therefore you should always read the food labels to check for the salt or sodium content.
2. Eat a balanced diet
Your diet should be low in fat and contain plenty of fruits and veggies. Your diet should also contain natural sources of potassium which is important in controlling blood pressure as it lessens the effects of sodium. The recommended daily intake of potassium for an average adult is about 4.7g per day. Some foods rich in potassium include:
- Sweet potatoes
- Tomatoes, Tomato juice and tomato sauce (without added salt or sugar)
- Lima beans
- Oranges and orange juice
- Apricots and apricot juice
- Raisins and dates
- Fat-free or low-fat milk
- Fat-free yogurt
A good eating plan for hypertensive persons is summarized in the D.A.S.H (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. This plan is especially effective in lowering blood pressure. It’s also rich in foods that are rich in potassium. The plan emphasizes on a diet that is:
- Whole-grain, high-fiber foods
- Fat-free and low-fat or 1 percent dairy products
- Skinless poultry and lean meats
- Fish (especially fatty fish containing omega 3 fatty acids such as salmon, trout and herring)
- Saturated and trans-fats
- Red Meat
- Sweets, added sugars and sugar-containing beverages
For amounts & servings you can download the complete D.A.S.H diet eating plan from here.
3. Do more exercise
Less active people likely to develop hypertension by 30-50% than active people. Thus increasing physical activity to moderate intensity for 30 minutes and above for at least 3 days per week, can reduce hypertension.
4. Lose weight
If you’re overweight or obese put effort to reduce your weight. You can know whether you have a healthy weight by using the BMI Calculator available here. You can achieve and maintain a healthy weight by having regular physical exercise combined with a healthy diet.
5. Reduce alcohol intake
Men should limit alcohol intake to two drinks per day while women and lighter-weight men to one drink per day.
Reduce intake of caffeine by cutting down on tea, caffeinated coffee, energy and soft drinks.
7. Quit smoking
Smoking reduces the elasticity of arteries by hardening their walls making blood more likely to clot. Smoking also puts you at a greater risk of heart attack and stroke which means if you smoke and have high blood pressure, you will be at a significantly higher risk.
8. Get adequate sleep
Ideally you should get at least 6 hours of sleep. Adequate sleep is key not just for your health but also general wellbeing.