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Treating hypertension through food

Published on November 15, 2018 at 1:51 / Updated on June 7, 2022 at 14:49

Often asymptomatic, hypertension is a discreet health condition that has adverse long-term health effects. Let’s take a look at the nutritional aspect of the treatment against hypertension, which has a significant impact on the reduction of blood pressure and thus on the prevention of cardiovascular diseases.

Definition of hypertension

Hypertension is an increase in systolic and/or diastolic blood pressure that is, in most cases, said to be primary, or in less than 5% of cases it may be caused by another health condition, like kidney disease. Besides age, several factors, such as weight, high cholesterol, alcohol consumption, high sodium intake, certain medications, stress, pregnancy, diabetes and other illnesses predispose us to high blood pressure.

Treatment targets

Systolic blood pressure lower than
Systolic blood pressure lower than
The elderly >80 years
150Target undefined

Pharmacological treatment is initiated as soon as blood pressure targets are not reached.

Consequences of arterial hypertension

Uncontrolled arterial hypertension will have multiple harmful effects on health. First, it will cause damage to the artery walls of the heart, brain, kidneys, abdomen, legs and eyes. This will increase the heart’s volume and heart failure and it will make the arteries harden faster. Damage to the arteries can lead to coronary heart disease, kidney failure, vision loss, vascular dementia, aneurysms, stroke, and reduced blood supply to the brain.

Did you know, according to Health Canada, it’s estimated that if the daily sodium intake were reduced by 1840 mg per day/per person in this country to reach the current recommendations estimated at 1500 mg per day, the prevalence of high blood pressure would drop by 30%.

Nutritional treatment of arterial hypertension 

Nutritional treatment of hypertension, on the other hand, has a few distinct goals:

1- Reduce your salt intake

Aim for a sodium intake of 1500 to 2300 mg of sodium, or less, per day. This will help reduce systolic blood pressure by about 2 to 8 mm Hg. To achieve this, hiding the salt shaker isn’t enough. In fact, salt added to your food only contributes about 11% of your sodium intake. The best attitude to adopt with regard to sodium in the diet is not to deny its existence and to avoid it at all costs, but rather to reduce the number of visits to restaurants, and to reduce the size of your portions. If you think they are too big for you, reduce your purchase and consumption of processed, ultra-processed and prepared foods, and cook more at home using fresh foods. Commercial breads, processed meats, tomato and vegetable juices, store-bought soups, pasta dishes, cheese and dairy products are the main foods contributing to high sodium intake in Canada.

2- Consume alcohol in moderation

Limit your alcohol consumption to 2 drinks/day or less for men and 1 drink/day or less for women. These good habits will help reduce systolic pressure by 2 to 4 mm Hg.

3- Aim for an energy intake to help you attain a healthy weight

Aim for or maintain a body mass index of <25 kg/m2 as well as a waist circumference of <80 cm for women and <94 cm for men. Every 10 kilograms (about 22 pounds) lost contributes to an approximate systolic blood pressure decrease of 5 to 20 mm Hg.

4-  Follow the DASH diet

Ce mode d’alimentation comprend beaucoup de fruits et de légumes, de produits laitiers faibles en gras, de fibres alimentaires, de grains entiers, de protéines végétales et peu de cholestérol et en graisses saturées contribuerait à une diminution de 8 à 14 mm Hg de pression artérielle systolique.

5-  Increase your physical activity

Increase the number of minutes devoted to physical activity. A 30-to-60-minute workout of moderate-intensity activity (walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, etc.) 4 to 7 times a week can help lower systolic blood pressure by 4 to 9 mm Hg.

6-  Live in a smoke-free and stress-free environment

Knowing that a decrease in blood pressure of 10/5 (systolic/diastolic) has a significant benefit on reducing the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, so adopting healthy lifestyle habits is a very attractive therapeutic goal. Small, long-term changes will always be the ones that have the greatest impact on health. So, if reaching the 6 nutritional recommendations above seems like a mountain to you, begin by introducing one or two changes that you can maintain in the long term. When you’ve got these habits well-established, other changes can be made. 

Familiprix in collaboration with Hubert Cormier

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