Hypertension (High blood pressure)

What is Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure (BP) is the force exerted by the blood on the walls of the artery which are the blood vessels carrying blood away from the heart.

The contraction of the heart pumps blood through the blood vessels. During the heart contraction, the blood is pushed harder against the walls of the arteries than during the interval between contractions. The pressure of the blood on the arterial walls is greater each time the heart contracts and is known as the systolic pressure. The diastolic pressure is the pressure during the resting phase between contractions and is lower than the systolic pressure. The blood pressure (systolic and diastolic) is measured by an apparatus known as the sphygmomanometer or simply the BP apparatus. It is measured in millimetres of mercury (mm Hg). Normal blood pressure is 120/80 mm hg where 120 is the systolic pressure and 80 is the diastolic pressure. High blood pressure known as hypertension and is defined as a BP greater than 140 mm Hg systolic or a 90 mm Hg diastolic.

High blood pressure is related to dietary intake of salt and fats. High salt intake leads to water retention and increases the volume of blood in the circulation. This leads to an extra load on the heart and it responds by increasing the pumping pressure. The saturated fats in the diet deposit in the blood vessels over time causing them to harden. The heart needs to exert extra pressure to pump blood through them, causing the blood pressure to rise.

What are the risk factors?

The risk factors for high blood pressure include:
Secondary causes include disease conditions that can result in high blood pressure. These are kidney diseases and hormonal diseases such as hypothyroidism and Cushing’s syndrome.
Use of oral contraceptives in women

How can high BP be controlled?
Stop smoking
Maintain a normal body weight – reduce if over-weight.
Eating too much salt makes high blood pressure worse. Low-sodium diets are prescribed to help control high blood pressure. These limit the amount of sodium in the diet to less than 2 grams per day (about half the amount of sodium in the average diet).
Eat a healthy diet containing soluble fibre, such as fruit and vegetables.
Avoid high fat foods.
Avoid coffee and colas
Do not drink excessive alcohol.
Exercise regularly to keep fit.
Reduce stress and relax after work.
Follow-up regularly with the doctor.

How can the sodium in the diet be reduced?
Use little or no salt to food. Develop a taste for low salt in food. Do not use table salt.
Avoid fast foods and restaurant foods as they use very high salt.
Avoid ketchup, pickles, olives, all sauces, commercially prepared or cured meats or fish, canned foods (eat fresh foods), salted nuts, peanut butter, chips, popcorn and snacks.

Diet suggestions:
Use herbs and spices instead of salt for seasoning. Use onions, garlic, lemon and lime juice and rind, dill weed, basil, curry powder, turmeric, cumin, black pepper, or vinegar to enhance the flavour and aroma of foods. Mushrooms, dhania, red chillies, green chillies, and dried fruits also enhance specific dishes.
Add a pinch of sugar or a squeeze of lemon juice to bring out the flavour in fresh vegetables.
Rinse canned vegetables with tap water before cooking.
Substitute unsalted, polyunsaturated cooking medium for butter or ghee