Hypertension 7 – Prevention/Treatment




Hi. This is Dr. Louella continuing our series on hypertension. But first I must mention that I did go out for the Easter long-weekend. I got to be with nature as we hiked to Edith falls in Chaguaramas, Trinidad (breath-taking when dry, I can’t imagine what it would be like with water) and to the Corvine River (we’ll reach the pool next time; it was getting too dark).

With regards to hypertension I would like to remind us just how common this disorder. Current research suggests that 1 in 3 American adults and 1 in 4 Trinidadians have this disease. Remember what it can cause: stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney failure, and more. These are all dreadful, debilitating, expensive diseases.

Wouldn’t it be worth your while to prevent yourself developing this silent killer, hypertension? I think so. That’s why I am going to discuss prevention of hypertension, in conjunction with treatment, because much of what can be used to prevent hypertension is used to control it as well.

Now there are certain factors that predispose a person to hypertension, that are beyond our control. These include a family history of hypertension (heredity), increasing age (from 35-40 years onward) and ethnicity, such as being Afro-Caribbean or Afro-American.

This is fairly common knowledge. So if you KNOW you fall into one, two or even three of these categories (oh goodness, I’m in all 3) and are at an increased risk then you have a special responsibility to try to prevent yourself from getting hypertension. This disease is costly.

In preventing/treating hypertension I would first like to remind us to go easy on the salt. Most of us cook with too much salt. Do not add salt to your food when at the table. Decrease your consumption of fast foods; all they care about is the taste. Be wary of canned food, sausages and bacon. The salt is an integral part of their processing but it is way too much for you.

Especially for the Trinidadians, please note that you do not need to decrease the amount of fresh seasonings you add to food because these do NOT raise blood pressure. Fresh herbs and seasonings are encouraged in place of salt. However, packaged seasoning is a different matter, because it usually comes with salt.

Many of us don’t use enough fresh fruits and vegetables (including raw). These have so many health benefits, including lowering blood pressure by increasing potassium. Make a habit of passing by the fruit stall on a weekly basis to get your daily quota of two fruits. Also prepare salads more regularly.

Eat more oats. Have it every morning for breakfast if you can because, remember, this can help prevent hypertension.

Please reduce the alcohol intake. The benefits you will derive will go way beyond reducing hypertension.

What has been shown to work best is a comprehensive diet, where foods are combined to lower blood pressure nicely. These include high fibre foods. Increase your fibre intake with more whole grain products (whole wheat/meal bread, bran, oats etc), as well as, with more peas, beans and nuts. (Nuts are also great for lowering cholesterol. A handful a day is recommended – not too much, because they are high calorie.)

Other measures like lowering the amount of meat in the diet has also been shown to help. This is red meat in particular. You can have generous amounts of fish and some chicken. Dairy products should be consumed but should be low fat. Of course, much less sweets, especially sweet beverages and fat should be consumed.

This healthy diet has been proven to reduce blood pressure. And really, is it so hard? If you need more detail feel free to research the DASH diet. It is the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.

I’ll talk more on a major factor in hypertension, obesity, next week. I’ve been up way too long for one day. Ciao!!!

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