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High Blood Pressure

Superfoods to Help Lower Blood Pressure

Recent studies show that around 1 in 4 Singapore residents aged 30 to 69 years old have hypertension. At the same time, more than 1 in 20 Singapore residents aged 60 to 69 years old also have hypertension.

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, refers to a condition where blood is pumped around the body with a higher than usual pressure (i.e., 130mmHg/80mmHg). Although our blood pressure levels will change throughout the based on the activities we partake in, having blood pressure levels that are consistently above the normal range will lead to a hypertension diagnosis.

Blood Pressure

Systolic Blood Pressure

(mmHg)

Diastolic Blood Pressure

(mmHg)

Normal

< 130

< 80

Borderline

130 - 139

80 – 89

High

≥ 140

≥ 90

Why should you manage your blood pressure?

Hypertension is often called the silent killer as it is only discovered when complications such as stroke or heart attack set in. Though some individuals may suffer from headaches or giddiness when hypertension is severe, these symptoms are not specific to the condition itself as it is commonly present in other diseases or even plain fatigue.

Aside from stroke and heart attack, hypertension can also increase the risk of developing heart failure, coronary heart disease, peripheral artery disease (narrowing of blood vessels of the limb) and kidney failure. At times, undernourishment of the brain due to restricted blood flow can also deprive brain cells, lead to dementia, and even cause mild cognitive impairment.

Risk factors of high blood pressure

Various factors such as age, family history, activity level (physical exercise), obesity, pre-existing health conditions (e.g., diabetes, kidney disease, etc.) can raise your risk of being diagnosed with high blood pressure.

However, when it comes to diet, scientific studies have provided high-quality evidence that reducing sodium intake can be beneficial in lowering blood pressure. Even according to the World Health Organisation, reducing your salt intake to less than 5g a day can reduce your blood pressure. This is because sodium retains water in your body. This then causes your blood pressure to rise, putting pressure on your heart and blood vessels.

Based on the systematic review and meta-analysis of clinically randomised trials, which consist of 133 studies and 12,197 participants, it was indicated that reducing dietary sodium not only lowers blood pressure in people with existing hypertension, but also lowered blood pressure in people who were not yet at risk.

The benefit of reducing sodium intake on blood pressure is also reflected widely across multiple populations, not just in populations who were initially deemed as salt sensitive, such as the African Americans.

Nonetheless, though our body requires sodium for the normal functioning of our body, sodium can be easily found in almost every food that we consume. Therefore, there is minimal need for voluntary addition of sodium into our diets.

How can we reduce our sodium intake?

1. Choose fresh/unprocessed food

Fresh or unprocessed food such as wholegrains and seeds like organic quinoa seeds, fruit, vegetables, beans, fresh meat, and unsalted nuts have lower sodium content than processed foods.

Tips: Organic quinoa seeds are one of the few plant superfoods that provide a complete protein and is packed with various nutrients such as fibre, vitamins, and minerals. A cup of cooked organic quinoa seeds would provide you with about 8g of protein (~16% of daily needs) and 5 g of fibre (~25% of daily needs)!

2. Read the food labels

Processed foods generally contain more sodium than fresh foods. They tend to include table salt, monosodium glutamate (MSG) and other additives such as sodium bicarbonate. These are often added during food processing and manufacturing.

If you must buy processed food, be sure to read all the labels. Choose options that have the Healthier Choice Symbol (Lower in Sodium), review the Nutrition Information Panel, and compare it with food products within the same category to choose the lower sodium alternatives.

3. Add less salt when cooking

Cook with less salt, sauces, and seasonings. Instead, season your food with natural herbs and spices such as chilli, ginger powderorganic turmeric powder, and ceylon cinnamon powder instead.

Tips: Season your food with nutritional yeast flakes. It not only enhances the taste of the food as it provides a cheese-like taste without added salt, but also provides a wide spectrum of B Vitamins, minerals and doubles as a source of complete protein.

4. Avoid condiments and foods with added salt when eating out

Always ask for less salt and sauce or ask for the condiments to be served on the side. Also avoid finishing up the entire broth or sauces as they usually contain a lot of sodium.

Can exercising help lower blood pressure?

Aside from reducing your sodium intake, clocking at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week may also help to lower your systolic blood pressure by an average of 4 to 9 mmHg. This efficacy is almost as good as certain blood pressure medications.

Take Measures to Prevent High Blood Pressure

All in all, it is important to remember that the only way to detect high blood pressure is to keep track of your blood pressure reading. For a healthier blood pressure, it is essential to stay active and have a healthy balanced diet.

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