Hypertension is another name for high blood pressure. It can lead to severe health complications and increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and sometimes death.
People can prevent high blood pressure by following a heart-healthy diet.
Reducing salt intake
High sodium consumption contributes to high blood pressure. The main source of sodium in the diet is salt.
The American Heart Association recommends that people without hypertension consume less than 2300 milligrams(mg) of sodium per day. This roughly equates to one teaspoon. People with hypertension should consume less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day to manage their condition.
Lowering salt intake can benefit people with and without hypertension.
Moderating alcohol consumption
Moderate to excessive alcohol consumption can increase blood pressure.
The American Heart Association recommends a maximum of two alcoholic drinks per day for men, and one for women.
The following would count as one drink:
- a 12-ounce (oz) bottle of beer
- 4 oz of wine
- 1.5 oz of 80-proof spirits
- 1 oz of 100-proof spirits
A healthcare professional can help people reduce consumption if they find it difficult to moderate their alcohol intake.
Eating more fruits and vegetables and less fat
People who have high blood pressure or people at high risk for developing high blood pressure should reduce their intake of saturated fats in favour of unsaturated forms.
Experts recommend that those with high blood pressure prioritize more heart-healthy foods, such as:
- whole grain, high fibre foods
- a variety of fruits and vegetables
- pulses, such as chickpeas, beans, and lentils
- fish rich in omega 3 twice per week
- no tropical vegetable oils, such as olive oil
- skinless poultry and fish
- low fat dairy products
If a person has high blood pressure or wished to maintain moderate blood pressure, it is important to avoid trans fats, hydrogenated vegetable oils, animal fats, and processed fast foods when creating a diet plan.
However, omega-3 fatty acids, such as those in oily fish and olive oil, have protective effects on the heart. However, these are still fats. While they are typically healthful, people with a risk of hypertension should still include them in their total fat intake.
Managing body weight
Excess body weight can contribute to hypertension. A fall in blood pressure usually follows weight loss, as the heart does not have to work so hard to pump blood around the body.
A balanced diet with a calorie intake that matches the individual’s size, sex, and activity level will help.
The DASH Diet
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) recommends the DASH diet for people with high blood pressure. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.
DASH is a flexible and balanced eating plan with a firm grounding in research by the NHLBI, who says that the diet:
- lowers high blood pressure
- improves levels of fats in the bloodstream
- reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease
The NHLBI produces a cookbook called Keep the Beat Recipes that provides meal ideas to help reduce blood pressure.