Dietary Management of Hypertension
Healthy Living

Dietary Management of Hypertension

Mehvish Hamdare profile Authored by Mehvish Hamdare on 11 Sep 2014 - 16:11.

High blood pressure (BP) or hypertension is a major health concern and its prevalence is rapidly increasing among both urban and rural populations. According to World Health Organization (WHO) health statistics 2012, the prevalence of hypertension in India was 23.1% in men and 22.6% in women in equal or more than 25 years age. The raised blood pressure was a high risk condition that caused approximately 51% of death from strokes and 45% from coronary artery disease.

What is Hypertension?

Hypertension is elevated blood pressure. Blood flows through the arteries due to force that is exerted every time the heart beats to pump blood to various organs of your body. The force with which blood flows exerts pressure on the walls of the arteries. The more blood your heart pumps and the narrower your arteries are, the higher the blood pressure.

Blood pressure is measured in mls of mercury (mmHg) and is recorded as two figures:

  • Systolic pressure – the pressure of the blood when your heart beats to pump blood out
  • Diastolic pressure – the pressure of the blood when your heart rests in between beats, which reflects how strongly your arteries are resisting blood flow

American Heart Association recommendation for healthy blood pressure is as follows:

Blood Pressure

mm Hg

mm Hg


less than 120

less than 80


120 – 139

80 – 89

High Blood Pressure
(Hypertension) Stage 1

140 – 159

90 – 99

High Blood Pressure
(Hypertension) Stage 2

160 or higher

100 or higher

What causes hypertension?

There are two major types of high blood pressure: essential, or primary, and secondary. Primary hypertension which accounts for more than 95 percent of cases, the causes include:

  • Genes for high blood pressure
  • Insulin resistance
  • Being overweight or obese

Secondary hypertension causes include:

  • Kidney problems
  • Adrenal gland tumors
  • Thyroid problems
  • Certain defects in blood vessels you're born with (congenital)
  • Certain medications, such as birth control pills, cold remedies, decongestants, over-the-counter pain relievers and some prescription drugs.
  • Illegal drugs, such as cocaine
  • Alcohol abuse or chronic alcohol use
  • Obstructive sleep apnea

Symptoms of hypertension:

  • Heartache
  • Dizziness
  • Impaired vision
  • Failing memory
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unexplained tiredness
  • Pain over heart

Hypertension is a silent killer as it can quietly damage your body for years before symptoms develop and is a major risk factor for ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke, myocardial infarction, heart failure, chronic kidney disease, cognitive decline and premature death.

Fortunately, with treatment and lifestyle changes, you can control your high blood pressure to reduce your risk of life-threatening complications.

Lifestyle modification to manage hypertension

  • Adopt Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet

The DASH eating plan:

  1. Emphasize more on vegetables, fruits, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products
  2. Includes whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds, nuts, and vegetable oils
  3. Limit sodium, sweets, sugary beverages, and red meats

In terms of nutrition content, DASH is:

  1. Low in saturated and trans fats
  2. Rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, fiber, and protein
  • Maintain a healthy weight

Increased body weight is a strong risk factor for hypertension. Even a small weight loss can reduce blood pressure and/or prevent hypertension in many overweight people. One study showed that in a four year follow-up of 181 overweight hypertensive patients, a 10 percent weight-loss produced an average of a 4.3/3.8 mmHg fall in blood pressure. Staying at a healthy weight is one of the best things you can do to prevent hypertension. Even losing just a few kilograms may help.

  • Cut back on salt

In your battle against high blood pressure, sodium (salt) is your enemy. One gram of sodium is equal to 2.5 grams of table salt (sodium chloride). It has been estimated that a reduction in salt intake from 10g a day to 6g will reduce blood pressure and could lead to a 16% reduction in deaths from strokes and a 12% reduction in deaths from coronary heart disease. Reducing salt is one of the quickest ways to reduce your blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends consuming less than 1500 mg of sodium a day.

  • Limit alcohol consumption

Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure to unhealthy levels as it contributes to weight gain which is a risk factor for high blood pressure. Also, alcohol can interfere with the the side effects of some blood pressure medications. It was found that people who drink alcohol excessively (over two drinks per day) have a one and a half to two times increase in the frequency of high blood pressure.

  • Increase physical activity

Being active and taking regular exercise lowers blood pressure by keeping your heart and blood vessels in good condition. Regular exercise can also help you lose weight, which will also help lower your blood pressure. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to become physically active, all you need is to strive for at least 30 minutes of brisk walking every day. Consult your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.

  • Quit smoking

Smoking doesn't directly cause high blood pressure but it puts you at much higher risk of a heart attack and stroke. If you smoke and have high blood pressure, your arteries will narrow much more quickly and your risk of heart or lung disease in the future is dramatically increased. Get help to stop smoking.

  • Eat high fiber food

Increasing fiber in the diet may help reduce blood pressure levels. A study published in "Journal of Hypertension" in 2004 followed 110 participants with higher-than-normal blood pressure. After the 12-week trial in which participants received 8 grams per day of soluble fiber, both systolic and diastolic readings were lowered across the board.

Quick Tips:

  • Monitor your blood pressure at home
  • Practice relaxation or slow, deep breathing and manage stress
  • Take prescribed medication as directed: Use reminders to help you  to take your medication on time
  • Avoid refined foods, such as white breads, pastas, and especially sugar.
  • Cut down on caffeine intake
  • Increase potassium consumption as a potassium-rich diet may help to reduce blood pressure.
  • Drink 7-8 glasses of water throughout the day.
  • Include foods rich in omega 3 fatty acid which is found in fish like tuna and salmon, flaxseeds, walnuts, fish oil as researchers found that it helps to reduce blood pressure in people with untreated hypertension.
  • Read the nutrition labels on food packages to keep a watch on sodium content.





*Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.