Monday, 19 March 2012

This week, I am posting an article on hypertension from a dietitians perspective. You may recall that I wrote an article on hypertension and exercise last year sometime. Now you can read about food substances to include or avoid if you have this condition. For more information, visit:

Hypertension: The Silent Disease

Hypertension is a condition where blood pressure is too high. Hypertension is often called a silent disease since there may be no signs or symptoms that you have it. A normal blood pressure is 120/80mmHg. This measurement shows the pressure at which the heart is contracting (systolic blood pressure- 120) and relaxing (diastolic blood pressure- 80). A person is diagnosed with hypertension when they have a consistently high blood pressure of above 140/90mmHg.

Symptoms of hypertension may include frequent headaches, impaired vision, and shortness of breath, nose bleeds, chest pain, dizziness, and poor memory. Hypertension almost doubles a person’s risk of heart attack and stroke. If left untreated high blood pressure can also lead to heart and kidney failure, as well as loss of sight.

In last week’s post we focused on one aspect of lowering blood pressure: cutting back on your salt intake. Unfortunately for some though treatment of high blood pressure requires more than just a low salt diet. If you are hypertensive, follow these tips on dietary and lifestyle changes to help lower your blood pressure.

Check your blood pressure on a regular basis
If you have high blood pressure, buy a blood pressure machine (also called a sphygmomanometer) from your local pharmacy or Dischem. Keep a record of your blood pressure. 

If you are overweight, lose weight
Losing weight will naturally help to lower blood pressure. Studies have shown that blood pressure increases with increasing weight. A weight loss of just 5kg has been shown to lower blood pressure. Aim for a desirable body weight at a BMI below 25kg/m2.

If you chose to drink alcohol, do so sensibly
A high alcohol intake has been shown to increase blood [pressure. Limit to 2 alcoholic drinks per day for men, and 1 alcoholic drink per day for women and light-weight individuals. One drink is the same as one beer, half a glass of wine, or 30ml of spirits,

Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are high in potassium, a mineral which has been found to help lower blood pressure when eaten in large amounts. Oranges, potatoes, tomatoes, pumpkin, squash and avocado are all high in potassium.

Fruits and vegetables are also naturally low in salt, as well as low in calories to help in weight loss. Increase your intake of fresh fruits to 2 portions per day and vegetables to 4-5 portions per day.

Be active
Increase your exercise levels to at least 2-3 times per week for 30-45 minutes. For more on exercising in hypertension, go to

A stressful lifestyle can increase your blood pressure further
Be sure to take time to relax and decrease your stress levels

Look for Heat Mark products
The Heart Mark is a guideline for shoppers to instantly identify healthy products on the supermarket shelves. Products approved by the Heart Foundation are lower in cholesterol, lower in saturated fat, lower in salt (less than 450mg per 100g of a product), high in fibre (where applicable), and lower in added sugar. This means that all products with the Heart Mark are the healthier choices.

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