Preventing hypertension through diet
What is hypertension?
One is said to suffer from hypertension (or high pressure) when the force exerted on the walls of the arteries by blood pumped from the heart throughout the human body is higher than normal. If nothing is done to lower blood pressure, the blood vessels harden and blood circulation gets restricted. Since the heart needs to work harder, it becomes exhausted and the possibility of developing a heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney failure or even dementia increases.
Who is at risk?
According to Statistics Canada, more than nine in ten Canadians will suffer from hypertension if they don’t change their lifestyle. Blood pressure generally increases with each age group and is higher in individuals who are overweight. Until the age of 65, it is men who are most at risk, whereas after the age of 75, women take the lead.
How can we prevent hypertension?
Wave a magic wand over your plate a few times to protect your heart from evil spells!
- Cut out salt, for real! Reducing salt intake doesn’t only mean turning your back on the saltshaker. It also means cutting down on the frequency of dining out and buying less salty food. At the grocery store, look for items that contain no more than 5 to 10% of sodium per serving. Frozen meals, prepared or canned foods, soups and sauces, deli meats, marinated meats, cheeses, crackers, snacks, and breakfast cereals (yep!) are among the foods that contain the most.
- Eat less meat and more fish. The fat found in meat is one of the “bad” fats that settle in the arteries. It is called saturated fat. However, the fat found in pink fish like salmon, mackerel, rainbow trout, herring and sardines protects the heart! Challenge yourself to eat less than 3 meals with meat per week and more than 1 meal with fish.
- Opt for vegetables, dairy products, nuts, legumes and soybeans. The DASH diet is one of the most effective methods of reducing blood pressure. Compared with Canada’s Food Guide, the DASH diet promotes the consumption of even more vegetables, the option of low-fat dairy products (milk and yogurt with less than 2% fat and cheese with less 20% fat) and the substitution of meat and poultry more often with small amounts of nuts, chickpeas, lentils, and soybeans.
- Drink in moderation. While it’s true that one glass of alcohol is good for a healthy person’s heart, the same cannot be said for a higher intake. Low-risk drinking consists of 2 to 3 drinks/day for a maximum of 15 per week for men and 1 to 2 drinks/day for a maximum of 9 per week for women. One drink means 340 ml of beer with 5% alcohol content, 140 ml of wine with 12% alcohol content, 85 ml of wine with 20% alcohol content, 45 ml of spirits with 40% alcohol content or 280 ml of cider with 6% alcohol content.
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