Losing excess weight is the most effective way in which you can lower your blood pressure, not including medication.
Some studies find that for every kilogram of weight lost, blood pressure drops with 2,5 mm Hg systolic and 1,5 mm Hg diastolic.
A Body Mass Index of more than 25 is considered as overweight. (Calculate your BMI)
The word ‘diet’ signals deprivation to many people. However, adopting a health-giving eating plan can be very rewarding and is quite easy. Opt for low fat, high fibre food including whole grains and legumes. Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables to supply potassium and other crucial nutrients. Choose low-fat dairy products and experiment with lean meat like ostrich. Fatty fish, like salmon and tuna, contains omega-3 oils that protect your heart.
See the DASH eating plan for a user-friendly guide.
Many people are highly sensitive to salt (sodium chloride), and that leads to a rise in blood pressure. Try to limit intake to 6 gr (one teaspoon) per day. Do this by adding less salt during cooking and adding no salt to food at the table. Most important is to avoid processed foods, which is full of sodium, in many forms. Salt is also bad news for your kidneys, one of the target organs that can be damaged by hypertension and vascular disease.
Potassium seems to replace and eliminate excess sodium from the body, which reduces blood pressure in salt-sensitive people. It protects you and can be found in potatoes, nuts, bananas and other fruit. Increase your intake of this heart-friendly mineral.
Regular drinking, especially heavy drinking, can raise blood pressure. Men with hypertension should limit their intake to no more than 2 drinks per day, and women to one drink a day.
Although still much debated, coffee produces a temporary increase in heart rate and blood pressure, also in people who do not suffer from hypertension. It would be wise for hypertensive people to avoid the repeated elevations in blood pressure by drinking less coffee.
Blood lipids – bad fats
High cholesterol, especially the “bad fats”, like LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides cause damage to the lining of arteries. These fatty deposits, called plaques, partially obstruct and reduce flow through the blood vessels. High HDL-cholesterol however, seems to play a protective role. Diet and lifestyle changes are very important, and sometimes lipid-lowering drugs are necessary.
(Dr Kathleen Coetzee, MBChB)