If one has blood pressure of 140/90 mmHg or more for a sustained period, they are said to have high blood pressure, or hypertension. Dr Dennis Buwembo, a public health specialist, explains that in more than 95 per cent of the cases, there is no cause. In the remaining five per cent, the cause is associated with renal disease, endocrine causes, and formation of hormones responsible for regulation of heart and blood vessels function, pregnancy, use of steroids.
According to Buwembo, the conventional way to control it lies in lifestyle change. For instance, stopping or not smoking at all, reduction of alcohol intake, low fat diet, exercise and low salt intake.
While the condition can be contained using drugs – usually for life, nutritionists provide some practices one can carry out to keep the condition in check.
“As a general guide, for normal persons and as well as those with high blood pressure, it is important to practice healthy eating,” Gabriel Ocom, a nutritionist advises.
To keep high blood pressure in check, he recommends one to eat plenty and a variety of vegetables and fruits, emphasising that it is important to make these the main part of your meals; at least half of the meal should be comprised of vegetables and the more and varied they are, the better.
“Eat healthy fats and carbohydrates. Healthy sources of fats include groundnuts, vegetable oils, simsim, fish, sunflower and soya. Eat whole grains and limit processed grains,” Ocom adds.
Amanda Twebaze, a freelance nutritionist argues that foods that help to keep high blood pressure in check should be a part of a lifestyle; once one is diagnosed with the condition, it is not just foods but dietary habits that should be changed.
“Some of these dietary habits include reducing intake of fatty, sugary and oily foods. One should also reduce salt and sugar intake, avoid artificial seasonings like mayonnaise, ketchup because they usually have lots of salt and artificial preservatives that will only heighten blood pressure. Highly spiced foods should also be avoided and replaced with more bland foods for a healthy heart,” Twebaze explains.
Ocom says that sugary foods and bad fats, including butter, hydrogenated oils, mostly solid at room temperature, tend to increase the bad cholesterol types that increase risk of heart diseases and death thus need to be avoided. Replace these with nuts and seeds for good cholesterol.
Tumwebaze also adds that foods that are high in carbohydrate should be avoided because they can lead to central or stomach obesity and general body obesity that is usually linked to high blood pressure.
“Drink lots of healthy fluids such as water and soymilk and include lots of fibre in your diet. Foods that are particularly helpful include garlic, cactus, green vegetables, beetroot, carrots, nuts and seeds like cashews, oyster nuts, mushrooms, pumpkin,” she further explains.
In agreement, Ocom recommends plant proteins such as groundnuts, simsim, soy, and beans as they are rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium and fibre. These promote good muscle, nerve and hormonal function to allow blood to circulate adequately. “Fibre from fruits and vegetables helps to reduce bad cholesterol and fats in the body for better blood circulation,” Twebaze explains.
Ocom also urges incorporation of animal proteins from fish, poultry to their diet. He however says red and processed meat has high sodium and bad cholesterol and should be limited .or substituted with other good sources of potassium such as dried beans, bananas, spinach, and orange colored vegetables