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    Chronic Conditions
    1234 · 20 min read

    Diet and Hypertension: What is the connection?

    Diet and Hypertension: What is the connection?

    It's often said that "you are what you eat," and when it comes to hypertension, there's some truth to that saying. Diet plays a critical role in controlling high blood pressure, and understanding the connection between the two can be a powerful tool in managing your blood pressure. From salt intake to nutrient-rich foods, the foods you choose to put on your plate can have a significant impact on your blood pressure levels. 

    Various foods spread on a plate in the shape of a love heart

    How does diet affect blood pressure?

    Diet plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy blood pressure levels. When you consume food, your body breaks down the nutrients and uses them to perform various functions, including regulating blood pressure. A healthy diet filled with nutrient-dense foods can help your body maintain healthy blood pressure levels, while an unhealthy diet can cause your blood pressure to rise.

    Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fish, lean meats, and low-fat dairy are all nutrient-dense foods that can support healthy blood pressure levels. These foods are rich in vitamins, minerals, fibre, and other beneficial nutrients that can help keep your blood vessels healthy and relaxed, which in turn can help lower blood pressure.

    On the other hand, foods that are high in sodium, saturated fats, trans fats, and added sugars can contribute to high blood pressure and increase the risk of heart disease. Processed foods, sugary drinks, red meat and deep-fried foods are all examples of foods that should be limited or avoided if you have high blood pressure or are at risk of developing it.

    Google Web Story: Diet and Hypertension

    UK Meds have put together a handy Google Web Story to explain the connection between what you eat and high blood pressure:

    Can sodium intake (salt) affect blood pressure?

    If you're consuming too much salt, your blood pressure levels could be on the rise. As an adult, you should aim to consume less than 5 grams of salt per day - that's less than a teaspoon! However, most people consume far more than this. To reduce your salt intake, try to limit your consumption of processed foods, canned goods, and fast food, as these tend to be high in salt. Instead, try seasoning your food with herbs and spices or using naturally low-sodium alternatives.

    Can sugar intake affect your blood pressure?

    Excessive sugar intake not only leads to weight gain, but can also contribute to high blood pressure by causing insulin resistance and/or type 2 diabetes. This condition arises when the body cannot effectively use insulin to regulate blood sugar levels, which can make blood vessels stiff and lead to hypertension.

    Sugary drinks, such as fizzy pop and juice, are especially problematic, as they can contain high amounts of added sugar. Try to limit your intake of sugary drinks, and opt for water, herbal tea, or unsweetened beverages instead.

    Can unhealthy fats affect blood pressure levels?

    Unhealthy fats, specifically trans fats and saturated fats, are linked to an increased risk of developing hypertension. Trans fats are especially problematic, as they not only increase blood pressure, but also raise LDL or "bad" cholesterol levels and lower HDL or "good" cholesterol levels. These fats are commonly found in fried foods, baked goods, and processed snacks such as cookies, cakes, and crackers.

    Saturated fats, on the other hand, are typically found in animal products such as meat and dairy, as well as in some plant-based sources such as coconut and palm oils. While saturated fats are not as harmful as trans fats, they can still contribute to the development of hypertension, particularly when consumed in excess.

    What is the importance of lifestyle changes in blood pressure management?

    Lifestyle plays a crucial role in blood pressure management. For those on medication, exploring how new dietary and exercise habits can fit into your daily routine can make a significant difference.

    Summary

    High blood pressure is a serious health concern that requires careful attention to one's diet. Although it may be tempting to opt for convenient and unhealthy fast foods and snacks, these often contain high levels of preservatives and sodium, which can contribute to elevated blood pressure over time.

    It is important to prioritise a healthy and balanced diet that includes nutrient-rich whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. By making these healthier food choices, you can lower your blood pressure, reduce the risk of developing other health problems, and feel better overall.

    Sources

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