Those who suffer from hypertension are at greater risk of other serious conditions and illnesses. Lawrence Appel, MD, MPH, a professor at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health explains that with a rise in blood pressure the risk of kidney disease, stroke and heart attack increases as well.
The good news is that hypertension is treatable. Through making a few simple changes to your diet you will be able to protect your health more effectively by minimizing your high blood pressure.
Diet And Hypertension
According to the American Heart Association, one third of American adults have high blood pressure; and the rate of death due to hypertension has increased by 25% since 1995, meaning there is no sign of this problem going away. However, there is a way to avoid this problem. By some estimates blood pressure is the risk factor for death by heart disease that is the most modifiable. According to Dr. Appel, heart disease is not amongst the sources of mortality that have gained the attention of public health policy makers.
Three Strategies To Focus On In Diet And Hypertension
Diet is a key factor in lowering blood pressure. Appel explains that there are several dietary approaches that can be taken, and each one is designed to address a different contributor to high blood pressure.
Sodium Reduction. Appel says that sodium has been a major focus, and this has led to many people believing that all other approaches revolve around the issue of sodium. Since sodium is used as a preservative, it is often used in excess in processed foods, meaning that food supply producers have effectively “stacked the deck against us.” Read Food Labels Carefully. The recommendation from Appel is that you aim to ingest less than 200 mg of sodium per individual serving, or less than 600 mg of sodium per entire meal (such as a frozen dinner). Naturally, the more fresh foods you eat, the less sodium you will be ingesting.
Weight Loss. Weight loss has been found to have a positive effect on blood pressure, overall. Having said that, rapid weight loss followed by rapid regaining of the weight can be very harmful to your body image as well as your mental health, and could in fact contribute to a variety of health problems including high blood pressure.
Regulation Of Alcohol Intake. Excessive alcohol consumption has a wide range of negative effects on the body, including increasing the blood pressure. An effective strategy is to limit alcohol consumption to one drink a day for women, and two drinks per day for men.
Managing Hypertension Through The DASH Diet
DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, and many people have achieved great success through this option. Changing the way you eat, DASH causes you to focus on eating fresh vegetables, fruits, lean meats, low-fat dairy and whole grains. While the DASH diet requires a range of changes in diet, the easiest way to begin is to include vegetables and fruits at every meal, and add low-fat dairy to most meals.
A lot of evidence supports DASH, and Appel explains that unlike other diets, it is clear that DASH can be sustained throughout a lifetime. Over time, starting from infancy, blood pressure slowly rises, continuing throughout life. Although it is inevitable to experience some blood pressure increase, DASH is a way to minimize this increase. Getting started with these habits as early as possible in life can help you to keep your blood pressure lower throughout your lifetime, according to the best available evidence.
Medication, Diet, Or Both?
Although making changes to your diet can have a massive positive effect on your blood pressure not everyone will be able to manage their blood pressure using only their diet. Some will need medication in addition to the dietary changes in order to keep it in check. Appel is clear that there are benefits to drug therapy and that diet and drug therapy are complementary rather than mutually exclusive. The goal is to lower the blood pressure; and if that requires drug therapy in addition to dietary changes then that is the way to go.