Hypertension has become a common ailment across age groups. Here are some tips to prevent and manage it.

Hypertension is a ‘silent killer’ and affects every third person above the age of 18. Commonly known as High Blood Pressure (HBP) or Hypertension, many of us at this moment are living with it knowingly or unknowingly, unaware of the long-term consequences.

Hypertension raises the force and pressure of the blood that flows from our heart. An above normal blood pressure affects the heart and connecting arteries negatively, and increases the risk of heart disease like stroke, clogged arteries, heart failure and kidney failure. The heart’s pumping power becomes reduced, as it is works harder to pump blood into the body.

While high BP is generally hereditary, this is not the only cause. Several factors like consumption of junk food, sedentary lifestyle, high intake of salt and alcohol, chronic stress and high cholesterol levels also cause high BP.

Although high BP does not have a cure, it can be managed or prevented by lifestyle changes and medication. A few small changes can help reduce blood pressure

To begin with, limit salt intake. The WHO recommends no more than five grams of salt — the equivalent of one teaspoon — a day. Processed and packaged foods, fast food, and canned food are high in salt; so avoid them.

Potassium also helps prevent and manage hypertension. The recommended daily intake for adults is 3,510 mg. Potassium-rich foods include beans and peas (approximately 1,300 mg of potassium per 100 gm), nuts (approximately 600 mg/100 gm), vegetables such as spinach, cabbage and parsley (approximately 550 mg/100 gm), fruits such as banana, papaya, dates (approximately 300 mg/100 gm), citrus fruits (oranges, lemon) and coconut water.

Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables for fibre and avoid salty food like sauces, pickles and chips. Fruits and vegetables are low in sodium and high in potassium. Reduce fatty and fried food— especially saturated fats/transfats and replace them with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.

Keep weight under control. Blood pressure tends to increase as weight does. Every five kg of excess weight lost can reduce systolic blood pressure by two to 10 points. Fortunately, BP tends to drop as weight does. For optimum health, an adult should maintain a Body Mass Index (BMI) between 18.5 to 24.9 Kg/m2.

Start exercising. Stressful situations can cause temporary BP spikes. Being physically active is one of the most important things to prevent or control high blood pressure. Getting enough sleep, deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and exercising for at least 30 minutes daily can help reduce stress. Examples of moderate activities are brisk walking, cycling, gardening and housework.

Control alcohol consumption. Not only does too much alcohol raise blood pressure, repeated excess drinking can lead to long-term BP increases.

And last but not the least, stop tobacco consumption. Smoking and chewing tobacco chewing are important causes of high blood pressure because of its nicotine content. Tobacco consumers should quit tobacco in any form.

What to watch for

Some of the symptoms are heaviness of head, giddiness, headache and neck pain.

These signs can help identify if rising BP is affecting the heart: frequent breathlessness, bloating in feet, ankles; fatigue, nausea and irregular pulse.