High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a medical condition marked by a rise in pressure on the walls of arteries. People with this condition are at higher risk of developing life-threatening cardiovascular diseases such as coronary heart disease, kidney failure, stroke, and heart attack. These cardiovascular diseases claim 2,600 American lives every day or one cardiovascular death every 33 seconds. According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in America.
High blood pressure is often considered as the silent killer because it has few early symptoms and many people are not aware that they have it. Statistics show that only about half of people with high blood pressure in the United States know they have it. Of those who know they have high blood pressure, only about half are receiving treatment. Of these people receiving treatment, only 25% of them are actually controlling their blood pressure (University of Maryland Medical Center).
High blood pressure is caused by different factors such as lifestyle, genetics, race, and diet.
Sedentary lifestyle or lack of physical activity is associated with rise in blood pressure. Smoking and heavy alcohol drinking can also raise blood pressure to dangerous level.
Preliminary studies show that certain genes can predispose an individual to develop high blood pressure. This might be the reason why the disease runs in families.
Race is also linked to hypertension. According to statistics, African Americans are more likely to develop high blood pressure than their white counterparts. In addition, the statistics show that African Americans develop high blood pressure at younger age than whites and die at much higher rates.
Diet is a very important factor in the development of hypertension. Too much intake of food with too much sodium, fats, cholesterol, or carbohydrates as well as heavy alcohol drinking can contribute in development of hypertension. Continue reading to learn why avoiding or reducing the intake of these foods can help you control or prevent your high blood pressure.
Control Sodium Intake
Sodium is the element found in table salt (NaCl), a common food additive. This element is very important in regulating body fluid. However, it becomes detrimental to health when it is present in excess amount in the body. Research shows that high intake of sodium is linked to high blood pressure. It is believed that sodium causes the constriction or narrowing of blood vessels. As a result, the amount of space the blood has to travel decreases, increasing the resistance it needs to overcome. Increased resistance results to increased blood pressure which is not good to the heart and blood vessels.
Sodium, together with other compounds, enters our body through the food we eat. There is a long list of foods that contain sodium. Listing all of them is not the scope of this article but typical examples include processed foods (e.g. sausage, bacon, ham, etc.), canned soups, deli meats, condiments (e.g. catsup, soy sauce, salad dressings, etc.), snack foods (e.g. corn chips, potato chips, peanuts, pretzels, etc.), and marinated or pickled food. Generally, salty foods contain high amount of sodium. Reducing the intake of these foods can greatly help in reducing high blood pressure.
An average American ingests 6,900 to 9,000 mg of sodium a day even though the human body only needs 500 mg of it. The accumulation of too much salt in the body can be risky especially to people who are sensitive to sodium including those who have family history of hypertension, elderly, African Americans, and diabetics.
There are ways to reduce sodium intake. Doctors advise that you pay attention to the amount of sodium listed in food labels. In this way, you can control the amount of sodium you take. You should also consider substituting salt with various condiments and seasonings with less sodium. In this way, you still enjoy your food but with less salt or sodium.
Control of Alcohol Intake
Heavy alcohol drinking has been shown to raise blood pressure by interfering blood flow to and from the heart. Doctors advise moderate alcohol drinking (less than 3 drinks a day) because it doesn’t have much impact on the heart. In fact, numerous studies show that moderate alcohol drinking can have protective effects to the heart. However, doctors recommend that those who already have hypertension should avoid alcohol consumption as it worsens their conditions.
Avoid Foods High in Fat
People with high blood pressure should avoid foods high in saturated or trans fats as these can worsen their condition leading to serious complications. High intake of saturated fats increase the level of low density lipoproteins (LDL) that tend to stick on the walls of arteries, narrowing the amount of space blood has to travel. This causes blood pressure to increase.
Control Consumption of Carbohydrates
Too much intake of carbohydrates or sugar without adequate physical activity can cause weight gain or obesity. Obesity is an important determinant for hypertension. The extra weight puts additional strain on the heart and slows down blood flow. Controlling carbohydrate intake combined with physical activity can help prevent weight gain and high blood pressure.
Monitoring your intake of sodium, fats, carbohydrates, and alcohol can contribute a lot in controlling your high blood pressure.[ad#afterpost]