As the saying goes, we are what we eat. Indeed, our diet plays a big role in keeping us healthy, happy, and hormonally balanced. Regulating one’s food intake can be a decisive factor in treating several illnesses, especially emerging lifestyle diseases like hypertension. Today, on World Hypertension Day (17 May), we take a look at some of the foods that aid in lowering blood pressure naturally.
A study published by the International Journal of Hypertension in 2021 estimated that the prevalence of the disease amongst urban residents in Southeast Asian countries had climbed to 33.82%. The brow-raising statistic in this report was that 32.45% of this population were school-going adolescents. Clearly, there has been a staggering rise in cases worldwide, indicative of a lifestyle shift in recent decades.
What is hypertension and what are the risks of the disease?
While your blood pressure denotes the pressure exerted by blood against the walls of your blood vessels, it is measured in two waves, i.e., through systolic(low) and diastolic(high) forms. Hypertension, however, is the prevalence of prolonged high pressure in an individual, leading to potentially fatal side effects. About one-third of Southeast Asian adults have been diagnosed with hypertension, and an estimated 1.5 million deaths are associated with hypertension annually, the same study concludes.
While the World Health Organisation lists several risks of hypertension like anxiety, nausea and headaches, a few of the more grievous outcomes include heart failure, stroke, chest pain, and heart attacks. Yet, in the most acute of cases, one of the immediate treatments listed has been modifying one’s dietary lifestyle. Green leafy vegetables, a reduction in salt intake and fruits that are rich in potassium are usually the way to go.
Other heart-friendly foods include bananas, beetroot, watermelon, oats, garlic, ginger and pulses (peas, lentils and beans), says Mickey Mehta, one of India’s prominent health coaches. Having started his career as a black-belt martial artist, Mehta quickly became Bollywood’s favourite, having trained superstars like Salman Khan and Kareena Kapoor. “Potassium is the key essence for lowering blood pressure which is abundantly available in the above-mentioned foods. These ingredients are also anti-inflammatory in nature, keeping your guts clean and healthy.”
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What are the foods that help to lower blood pressure?
Foods rich in antioxidants
From broccoli to tomatoes, the foods you were once terrified of as a child are making a healthy return. These fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants, which studies have found are extremely helpful in reducing blood pressure. Strawberries and blueberries are rich in antioxidant compounds while spinach and carrots are other alternatives.
Foods containing omega-3 fatty acids
Salmon and other fatty fish, such as mackerel, herring and sardines are good examples of food that are rich in fatty acids. These fats help decrease the production of oxylipins, which are known to raise blood pressure by tightening the blood vessels. Other omega-3-rich foods would include nuts like flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts, and plant oils such as flaxseed oil, soybean oil, and canola oil.
Another key ingredient in the pool is foods that are rich in minerals like potassium. An article published by Forbes Health argues that “Potassium regulates electrolyte balance and controls muscle function throughout the body, including the heart.” This section would include passion fruit, avocados, oatmeal, dried fruits like raisins and apricots as well as a variety of other vegetables and fruits like beets, spinach and kidney beans.
If you’re struggling to find an item that excites you when you’re trying to control your diet, a piece of dark chocolate might be the game-changer. Research published in the Current Hypertension Reports evaluated that the effects of long-term cocoa consumption on blood pressure in middle-aged and older adults can be associated with a reduction in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings in people with hypertension.
Regular intake of water can be the determining factor in your journey with hypertension. Drinking 6-8 glasses of water is recommended by most doctors and experts. It aids in keeping the system hydrated and cool, especially during summer months.
Other general tips to reduce hypertension
A few other important dietary guidelines that will help in reducing high blood pressure are:
– Avoiding saturated fats
– Reducing sweetened drinks and desserts
– Eating enough vegetables, fruits and whole grains
– Consuming a healthy amount of fish, meat and nuts
(Main and featured image: Ella Olsson and Eiliv Aceron/Unsplash)
This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Singapore