Sunday, February 04, 2018

Do Foods Play Important Role In Managing Hypertension?

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is not only a chronic disease by itself but also a risk factor for many other medical disorders including heart disease and stroke. While hypertension is not curable, it can be controlled with medication as well as adoption of healthy lifestyle. 

Foods do play an important role in managing hypertension. For the past 3 decades, research has been conducted to search for the best dietary recommendations for hypertension, but in reality, the vast majority of dietary recommendations are very similar to healthy diet recommendations in general.

There are 3 things that people with hypertension should avoid. First of all, they should reduce or simply not drink alcohol since drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure. Although studies have shown that low levels of alcohol intake could have protective effects on the heart, research has also clearly indicated that consuming alcohol is unhealthy for people who already have hypertension.

If one really wants to drink, he or she should limit the alcohol consumption to no more than 2 drinks per day for men and no more than 1 drink for women. A drink is a 12 oz. beer, 4 oz. of wine, 1.5 oz. of 80-proof spirits or 1 oz. of 100-proof spirits.

People love tasty foods, which unfortunately, are often packed with high salt. Salt or more precisely sodium intake is another thing for which hypertensive people should watch out. Too much sodium consumption is bad for the heart regardless of one's blood pressure status. Besides table salt, most of the sodium in the diets comes from packaged and processed foods. Hence, eating less of these foods can reduce sodium intake, lower blood pressure or preventing hypertension from developing in the first place. As suggested by most health organizations, limit for sodium intake is no more than 2,300 mg a day, and an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults, especially for those with hypertension.

Saturated fats are bad for the health, especially for people with hypertension because it raises blood cholesterol levels. High levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol in the blood increase the risk of heart disease and hypertension. Foods like beef, lamb, pork, butter and poultry with skin are all high in saturated fats, and they should be consumed as little as possible.

If one wants a more structured eating plan to manage blood pressure, perhaps he or she can consider a program called DASH, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. Its basic rules include replacing foods high in total and saturated fat with fish, poultry, seeds and nuts, eating more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, limiting alcohol and caffeine intake, and staying away from processed foods.

Besides diet, patients with hypertension should also exercise regularly, stop smoking, reduce stress, lose some weight if they were overweight. More importantly, do not skip medications.

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