Hypertension, or an abnormally high blood pressure, is almost as common as the common cold in the present times. However, this abundance is not the worst manifestation of this medical condition. It is rather the fact that it comes and stays without prior warnings, which means there are no specific symptoms to signal its presence. It is a long-term medical condition and one can be affected for years without having the knowledge of it.
The fact that it does not announce its presence with symptoms makes it difficult to identify and hence treat. Some people report headaches or dizziness but these can’t be considered as symptoms directly associated with high blood pressure.
There are two categories of Hypertension:
Primary or Essential, where the cause is mostly unknown and symptoms almost absent; and
Secondary, which suggests the sustained stage of the same where it is accompanied by additional signs and symptoms. These additional symptoms are of medical conditions that coexist with hypertension, that are also deemed to be the cause of it. The prevalent cause of secondary hypertension is kidney diseases, but hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, Cushing syndrome and other endocrine conditions are also potential causes.
Although apparently harmless initially, a prolonged state of hypertension can be damaging in two ways— increased workload on the heart, and its effect on arteries. The increased workload on the heart causes the size of tissue of the cardiac muscles to expand. As the state of hypertension progresses, the heart becomes weaker. This wear and tear ultimately lead to a plethora of hypertensive heart diseases, coronary and peripheral artery diseases, stroke and chronic kidney diseases, causing multiple organ damages.
Like in most medical conditions, hypertension too should ideally be nabbed at the primary stage before it progresses to cause additional damage to the body. Experts advise regular health check-ups to keep track of the blood pressure, especially if you have a family history of hypertension behind you. Although mostly unknown, the following have been loosely considered causes of primary hypertension:
• Lack of exercise
• Maternal smoking and lack of breastfeeding in women
Nutrition and exercise: The role of well-balanced lifestyle in a condition of hypertension
At the primary stage, the few causes that can be kept in check are obesity, stress, depression and poor choice of lifestyle. The role of nutritional management in keeping a medical condition of hypertension, therefore, is paramount. A gradual weight loss in overweight-obese individuals and maintenance of body weight slightly below normal levels is what one should aim for when targeting hypertension at the essential level.
Dietary approaches to stop hypertension is a plan which is recommended. Its a plan which is rich in fruits, nuts, grains, fish and low-fat dairy. The focus is providing sufficient amount of Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium. Fibre and protein. Typical examples are food like Bananas, Celery, Spinach, avocado, watermelon, beetroot, broccoli, green veggies, seeds and nuts etc Choosing food low in salt is critical as sodium leads to fluid retention which leads to blood pressure.
Founder of Food ‘n’ Wellness, a food, and nutrition advisory company based out of Singapore. Meenu is a trained clinical dietitian & holds a Masters degree in Nutrition & Dietetics. She is registered with the Singapore Nutrition and Dietetic Association( SNDA). She specializes in providing nutrition advice with an emphasis on managing medical conditions like diabetes, cholesterol, acidity, thyroid, blood pressure and weight-related issues.