Hypertension increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and kidney disease. Oftentimes, the cause of hypertension cannot be determined. Although changing your diet may not eliminate the need for medication, it can, through a few simple measures, enhance the effectiveness of your treatment and may even help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
The DASH Diet
The DASH or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet is an eating plan aimed at improving high blood pressure. The focus of this diet is on increasing one's intake of fruits, vegetables, low fat milk and dairy products, whole grains, chicken, fish and nuts, and decreasing one's intake of fat, red meat and sugar.
Reduce your sodium intake
Eating too much sodium can increase blood pressure. If your pressure is already high, you can help reduce it by decreasing your sodium intake. The Canadian Hypertension Education Program recommends limiting sodium intake to 2000 mg (5 g of salt) per day.
You can limit your salt intake by avoiding very salty foods, such as:
- Delicatessen and smoked meats
- Chips, cookies and salted nuts
- Large amounts of cheese (except cottage cheese and salt-free cheese)
- Vegetable or tomato juice
- Seasonings (celery salt, onion salt, garlic salt)
- Olives and pickles
- Canned soups, soup mix, condensed, cubed or concentrated consommes and bouillon (such as Bovril®, Oxo®)
Tips to reduce sodium (salt) consumption:
- Choose low- or reduced-sodium, or no-salt-added versions of foods and condiments when available.
- Choose fresh, frozen, or canned (low-sodium or no-salt-added) vegetables.
- Use fresh poultry, fish, and lean meats, rather than canned, smoked, or processed types.
- Choose ready-to-eat breakfast cereals that are lower in sodium.
- Limit cured foods (such as bacon and ham), foods packed in brine (such as pickles, pickled vegetables, olives, and sauerkraut), and condiments (such as mustard, ketchup, and soya sauce).
- Cook rice, pasta, and hot cereals without salt. Cut back on instant or flavored rice, pasta, and cereal mixes.
- Rinse canned foods to remove some of the sodium.
- Use spices instead of salt. When cooking and at the table, flavor foods with herbs, spices, lemon, lime, vinegar, or salt-free seasoning blends.
- Use salt substitutes under medical advice only. These substitutes can be harmful to people with certain medical conditions.
- Remove the salt shaker from the table at home.
- Read the Nutrition Facts labels on foods to compare the amount of sodium in products. Look for the sodium content. Choose foods that provide less than 5 percent of the daily value for sodium. Foods that contain more than 20 percent of the daily value for sodium are considered high.
- Make these changes gradually.
Increase your potassium intake
Potassium appears to reduce blood pression in those with hypertension. It is found in fresh foods such as potatoes, tomatoes, mushrooms, oranges, bananas, cantaloupes, dates, dairy products, nuts, whole grains, legumes, lean meats, peanuts, almonds and dried apricots. Warning! Potassium can however interact with several drugs and become in excess in your body . If you are taking medications to control your blood pressure, talk to your pharmacist to make sure that you can safely increase your potassium intake.
Manage your weight
Hypertension can be caused or worsened by excess weight. Try to maintain a healthy weight. If you need to lose some excess weight, talk to your dietician who will suggest ways to modify your diet. Once you reach your healthy weight, try to maintain it by eating balanced meals.
Limit your alcohol consumption
There is a strong link between hypertension and consumption of 4 or more drinks per day. It is recommended that you limit your consumption of alcohol to a maximum of 2 drinks per day and consumption for men should not exceed 14 drinks per week and 9 drinks per week for women (one drink is equal to a glass of wine, one beer or one ounce of spirits).
Always watch your diet: it has a strong impact on your health!
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The patient information leaflets are provided by Vigilance Santé Inc. This content is for information purposes only and does not in any manner whatsoever replace the opinion or advice of your health care professional. Always consult a health care professional before making a decision about your medication or treatment.