6 ways (besides cutting down salt) to tame your blood pressure
Hypertension is becoming an epidemic.
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Have you heard about fruits’ latest superpower? Well, they can help cut high blood pressure to size. New research published in April has linked increased dietary potassium with lower blood pressure. And fruits are among the best sources of this mineral.
This piece of news is important because hypertension today is becoming an epidemic. The numbers are huge and increasing by the day, and worldwide it is a huge contributing risk factor for death.
According to WHO estimates, hypertension is responsible for at least 51 per cent of deaths due to stroke and 45 per cent of deaths due to heart disease. And what is even scarier is that it is beginning really young, sometimes in people barely in their twenties.
And when that happens, it can lead to constant wear and tear of multiple body systems besides wreaking havoc on our hearts. Not to be taken lightly, hypertension is best prevented.
And if looking a little closely at what we are plating, and moving beyond just demonising excess salt (as the causative reason) can help, then why not!
Basically the idea is that rather than focusing just on cutting the salt and sodium (Na) intake we should also look at boosting our intake of potassium (K).
That is because it’s the balance of these two - Na and K - that matters, not the salt intake alone. The mechanism is clear: increase in salt intake causes increased sodium in blood and as sodium retains water, this ultimately increases the blood volume stressing thus the heart and the blood vessels resulting in high BP.
Increased sodium content in blood also messes with the kidneys’ ability to remove extra water from blood, and that again contributes to hypertension.
The benefit of potassium is simple - it neutralises the effect of sodium and thus helps prevent high BP. So make sure you have at least two good sources of potassium every day: banana, coconut water, sweet potato, spinach, lentils, kidney beans and watermelon.
Increase in salt intake causes increased sodium in blood.
We all know that vitamin D is important to help maintain good bone health and its deficiency can fuel cancer, depression, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and cardiovascular disease.
Now research has connected its deficiency to hypertension too. A group of Danish researchers have found that vitamin D supplementation during the winter months can help lower blood pressure in hypertensive patients who have low levels of vitamin D. This is an important connection to keep in mind. Step out in the sun a bit more, and get your D checked.
Besides D and K, it is also very important to tame the sugar. High blood pressure and insulin resistance (which result from eating a diet too high in sugar) tend to go hand-in-hand, so to effectively nip high BP in the bud it is worth keeping that in check by controlling our sugar intake.
The science behind this is clear: if our cells grow resistant to insulin, we can't store magnesium in the body and it passes out through urination, resulting in low levels of magnesium, which raises the blood pressure.
Another modern day devil is trans fats, found mostly in junk food, margarines and fried foods, as it leads to increased LDL bad cholesterol), decreased HDL (good cholesterol) and increased triglycerides - all factors that lead to fat deposit and hardening of arteries, and eventually to hypertension.
Then there is word coming in about our gut’s health. Basically how many good bacteria we have in our gut also have a say in our blood pressure numbers. So maybe a conscious focus on plating more fermented foods - probiotics, kimchi, miso soup, buttermilk, idli, dosa, appam, dhokla, uttapam, kanji - is actually a good idea for not just our GI tract’s health, but also for taming our blood pressure.
Finally it’s time to whittle our waist a little too, as research shows that those who have fat around their abdominal area are at greater risk of developing hypertension when compared to those with similar weight but fat concentrations elsewhere on the body.
Hypertension is best prevented, and can actually be done with a few careful changes in our lifestyle and eating habits. It’s worth the effort to stay safe.