Hypertension is quite often considered a men’s health problem, but that’s a myth. In fact, men and women have a similar risk of developing high blood pressure. But after the onset of menopause, women actually face higher risk than men of developing high blood pressure. Although prior to 45 years of age, men are slightly more likely to develop high blood pressure.
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing inside the lining of arteries. High blood pressure or hypertension occurs when the force increases and stays higher than normal for a period of time.
Hypertension is often referred to as a silent killer. If untreated, it can lead to a major health set back and cause many complications. In most cases, there may not be any symptoms of high blood pressure. Sometimes, in case of sudden or severe increase in B.P., individuals may experience headaches, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision or nosebleeds. Uncontrolled high blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke and kidney failure. These problems worsen when high blood pressure is present along with diabetes. For women, high blood pressure during pregnancy can be dangerous for both mother and child.
What causes it? Reasons for high blood pressure
• Body weight: Obesity and diabetes along with their associated disorders are often associated with hypertension.
• Age:Chances of a high blood pressure diagnosis increase steeply with age. But research now shows that high blood pressure can affect adolescents and the young as well.
• Gender: Risk is greater in men than women, but after menopause, the difference decreases.
• Dietary factors: Some dietary factors that can contribute to high blood pressure include excess calories coming saturated fats, diets that contain high sodium foods, and less calcium and magnesium in the diet
• Potassium: Decrease in potassium intake and low intake of high potassium foods like fruits and vegetables can also lead to increase in heart rate and high blood pressure.
• Contraceptives: Certain oral contraceptive pills may lead to high blood pressure
• Lifestyle: Sedentary lifestyle devoid of exercise can contribute to high blood pressure. Stress, smoking, tobacco intake, and alcohol intake also lead to increase in high blood pressure.
• Other medical conditions High blood pressure can also be a result of other medical conditions such as kidney problems, diabetes, and sleep apnea. Hormone issues such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, Cushing’s syndrome and Hyperaldosteronism (increase in aldosterone) and preeclampsia in pregnancy are responsible for high blood pressure diagnosis.
Measures to reduce high blood pressure
Reduce sodium intake
It is important to note that it’s not the consumption of salt but excessive consumption of sodium is a concern. Sodium is a compound found naturally in foods. One teaspoon of salt contains 2400 milligrams of sodium and the amount recommended for daily consumption is approximately the same. The amount of recommended sodium intake reduces further to approximately 1500 mg under conditions such as hypertension, kidney issues, water retention, and heart condition to name a few. But these problems are usually correlated with high consumption of sugar and fat. Hence it is beneficial to avoid foods such as processed foods, salted snacks, pickles, papad, sauces and instant soups. These are some known sources of excess sodium and not the usual home cooked foods.
It’s important to avoid sprinkling excess salt at the table. Rather use adequate salt during cooking and experiment with reduced sodium salt after conferring with your physician. Tata Salt Lite is a good option for those looking to reduce sodium intake. It provides 15% reduced sodium than regular salt. Inclusion of herbs and spices like like coriander, ginger, turmeric, mint, garlic or lemon juice can also help improves the taste and flavour of the food.
Improve intake of calcium, magnesium and potassium
This can be done by inclusion of low-fat dairy products for calcium and green leafy vegetables for magnesium. Fruits and vegetables rich in potassium are bananas, watermelon, tomatoes, oranges, sweetlime, leafy vegetables, milk and almonds. Eating three to five servings of these foods daily would ensure sufficient potassium intake and regulate blood pressure.
Reduction in refined carbohydrates
Though this is not a direct connection, but the preparations and the nature of these foods usually contain excess sodium for taste and preservation purposes. Add omega 3 foods such as fatty fish, walnuts and flaxseeds to reduce blood pressure.
DASH Diet Dash Diet has been found to be a good approach for the treatment of hypertension. This diet emphasizes consumption of fruits, vegetables, low sodium, and low-fat dairy foods. It also includes low amounts of saturated fat, total fat and cholesterol to reduce blood pressure. This includes whole grains, poultry, fish, nuts and other foods rich in potassium, calcium, omega 3 and magnesium.
Lifestyle MeasuresLifestyle measures include regular exercise of 30 minutes daily, relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation and yoga, avoidance of rage and anger, adequate sleep, low alcohol intake, no smoking and normal body weight with low body fat percentage.
High blood pressure can affect the physical, professional, personal and economical life of any individual. As women tend to juggle multiple priorities, managing their own health often takes a back seat. It is advisable to take some judicious measures such as dietary and lifestyle modifications in order to prevent the onset of hypertension, control it and minimize its risks.
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