Posted on

Killing You Slowly : High Blood Pressure

One in three Singaporeans between age 18 to 74 years has hypertension (or persistent high blood pressure), according to the National Population Health Survey in 20201. This represents a sharp increase from the 24.2% in 2017. 

When a person’s blood pressure is consistently at 140/90mmHg or higher, he/she is said to have high blood pressure. A borderline high is between 130-139/85-89mmHg. 

Hypertension is often referred to as “the silent killer” because it may show no obvious symptoms and may strike you with a sudden cardiac arrest or heart attack. Older people are usually at higher risk as the vascular system changes with age. There’s a reduction in elastic tissue in their arteries, causing them to become stiffer and less compliant. Having said that, high blood pressure in young adults and even children is not uncommon in Singapore. 

The good news is high blood pressure can be managed with dietary and lifestyle changes. It is better to prevent it from young than to treat it later in life by taking blood pressure medication for the rest of your life.  

Tips To Manage High Blood Pressure 

1. Food Choices 

(a) Reduce Fat and Sodium Intake

The average Singaporean consumes as much as 3,600mg of sodium2 daily, which is close to 2 teaspoons of salt (9g salt) . This is almost twice the WHO’s daily recommendation of 2,000mg of sodium3 (or less than 5g salt). 

If you eat out often, opt for lower-salt and less-oil food options. As much as most of us love hawker fare, many hawker dishes are loaded with sodium. Laksa, for example, contains 7,904mg of sodium in one portion! Choose lower-sodium dishes, for example sliced fish bee hoon, herbal tonic soup, Teochew porridge, Thunder tea rice, economical rice with vegetables and fish (less gravy/sauce). Cut down on gravy- or sauce-based dishes such as lontong, laksa, and deep-fried foods. The gravies and sauces in hawker dishes usually have a lot of hidden sodium (and MSG) in them. 

If you prefer to prepare your meals at home, use less salt (or use lower-sodium salt) and less oil. We highly recommend choosing 1 of your daily meals to be low-in-sodium or sodium-free. The easiest way to do this without going crazy over what to eat at each mealtime is to go low-sodium for breakfast time – protein-rich oatmeals, overnight oats with chia seeds and fruit/nut toppings, smoothies with plant protein powders are easy and quick to prepare in the morning. Besides super-charging your body with an abundance of nutrients, these protein-rich breakfasts will make you feel full longer till lunch time while keeping your overall daily sodium intake lower. 

(b) Increase Fiber Intake – More Vegetables, Fruits, Nuts/Seeds

Incorporate a variety of colorful fruits, vegetables, high-fiber cereals, nuts/seeds and wholegrains into your daily meals or snacks. 

Potassium, magnesium and calcium in the diet have been shown4 to be important for hypertension control. The best sources of these micronutrients come from whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables, rather than supplements. We recommend sweet potatoes, bananas, dried apricots, watermelon, avocado, chia seeds, moringa leaf powder, cacao powder, broccoli, spinach, yoghurt and many more. 

(c) Embrace Healthy Cooking Methods

Use non-stick cookware to minimize the need for added oils or fats. Choose grilling, baking, or steaming over frying, and enhance meals with herbs and spices rather than excessive salt.

(d) Limit Highly Processed Foods

Opt for whole foods that are minimally processed. Highly processed foods such as many frozen ready-to-eat foods in supermarkets/convenience stores often contain high amounts of sodium used as preservatives to prolong shelf life.

(e) Learn to Read Food Labels

Pay attention to saturated fat and sodium/salt content on food labels. Choose products with reduced fat, low to zero sodium content, and no added salt whenever possible.

2. Exercise As Lifestyle

A lack of physical activity is linked to high blood pressure. While exercise alone cannot compensate for an unhealthy diet, regular physical activity is vital as it lowers blood pressure by reducing blood vessel stiffness so blood can flow more easily.

However, it is important to note that the benefits of exercise will not be realized if it is not done consistently, as a habit. You can lose gains after stopping exercise for two weeks. The standard recommendation is to have moderate exercise for 150 minutes per week (or aim for minimum 30 min a day) or vigorous exercise for 75 minutes per week. 

Enhance the health of your heart, lungs, and circulatory system through activities like brisk walking, biking, swimming, hiking, dancing, and more. Remember to do something you enjoy so that it is easier to make the exercise a lifestyle habit. 

3. Lose Extra Pounds 

Blood pressure often increases as weight increases. Being overweight can also lead to sleeping issues such as sleep apnea (disrupted breathing during sleep), which further raises blood pressure. Losing weight is one of the most effective lifestyle changes for controlling blood pressure. 

4. Get Quality Sleep & Keep Stress Levels Low

Insomnia, sleep apnea, and not getting enough quality sleep can contribute to hypertension. Avoid large meals, drinking lots of water, alcohol, caffeine closer to bedtime. Try deep breathing exercises which have been shown to be beneficial for blood pressure and stress levels5.

5. Quit Smoking

Smoking increases blood pressure: it damages your heart and your blood circulation. 

Sources/References:

  1. Singapore Heart Foundation  : https://www.myheart.org.sg/health/risk-factors/high-blood-pressure/
  2. Health Promotion Board. (2019). National Population Health Survey (NPHS).
  3. World Health Organization (WHO) A salt intake of less than 5 grams (approximately 2g sodium) per person per day is recommended by WHO for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, the leading cause of death globally.
  4. NIH National Library of Medicine: Potassium, Magnesium, and Calcium: Their Role in Both the Cause and Treatment of Hypertension 
  5. NIH National Library of Medicine : Deep breathing exercise at work: Potential applications and impact.

Conclusion

It is important to get your blood pressure checked regularly as high blood pressure is typically symptomless. Once diagnosed with high blood pressure, this chronic condition will stay for life and can lead to serious health problems and sudden stroke/heart attacks. Having said that, high blood pressure can be managed and kept under control if patients make effective lifestyle changes as mentioned in this blog and take BP-lowering medications as prescribed by their doctors. It is never too late to start managing high blood pressure. Take the first step today to make a lifestyle change that matters to your heart.

plant based protein powder
Posted on

The Do’s & Don’ts of Protein You Must Know

plant based protein powder

Protein aids in repairing and building parts of our body such as our body cells and tissues, organs, muscles, antibodies and hormones. It helps maintain muscle mass and strength to perform daily physical functions such as balancing and carrying items, especially as we age. Protein also helps in weight management.

For average Singaporean adults aged 18-49, the recommended daily protein intake is approximately 0.8g per kg of body weight. However, the daily recommended protein intake can be higher for people who live moderately active lifestyles or are older adults (50+). It should be coming in at 1.0-1.2g per kg of body weight instead. On average, adults aged 50 & above should consume approximately 50g to 60g of protein a day (depending on your body weight and lifestyle).

As you age, your body requires roughly 50% more protein than a younger adult to better preserve muscle mass and strength to maintain a certain quality of life. Benefits of having sufficient protein intake include an improvement of the body’s immune functions, faster muscle recovery from workouts, faster recovery from illnesses/surgeries, and better skin and hair health as the amino acids found in dietary protein are the building blocks of collagen, elastin and keratin- the structural components that make up healthy hair, skin and nails.

In this blog, we’ll cover the fundamentals of protein and we’ll also discuss the do’s and don’ts of protein.

Sources of Protein

Starting with the basics, let’s introduce you to the primary sources of protein.

Do’s and don’ts for Protein

In this segment, we’ll cover the dos and don’ts of protein you must know to include it in your diet in the right manner.

Do’s


Protein can be optimally obtained from natural food sources (particularly superfoods high in complete protein) rather than via supplementation. High-protein superfoods also boast nutrients that can promote absorption and provide more health benefits. For example,Quinoa is rich in Iron and B vitamins which are great for energy production and immune function. And Sacha Inchi Seeds, another complete protein source, is high in Omega 3 which has anti-inflammatory benefits.

Here are the do’s of protein you must keep in mind while including it in your diet.

  • Choose quality protein sources. We recommend more plant-based protein sources. There’s no need to stick to only one food for your protein source each time.
  • Have a mixture of animal and plant-based proteins as part of a balanced diet. For instance, Tofu, tempeh, edamame, Quinoa, and Sacha Inchi seeds.
  • If you are a meat eater, choose fresh, lean meats instead of processed, preserved and fatty meats.
  • If you are a vegan/vegetarian, you will need to consume a variety of protein sources to obtain all the necessary essential amino acids.

(note: only certain plant-based foods like Quinoa, Tofu, Buckwheat, Millet, Sacha Inchi Seeds, Chia Seeds, and Soybean contain all the essential amino acids and are complete protein sources).

Don’ts

A high-protein diet rich in natural plant protein sources carries much lesser risks of heart diseases or kidney stones as compared to animal protein sources. In addition, natural plant protein sources usually provide more health-benefiting nutrients such as more fibre, vitamins and minerals.

Focus on the following don’ts while you prepare a diet around protein.

  • Don’t consume too much protein. Those who follow very high-protein diets have a higher risk of kidney stones.
  • Maintain your protein intake. Too much protein can overwork the kidneys and lead to kidney damage conditions such as high protein levels in the urine.
  • Eating lots of meats such as beef, poultry, and pork as part of a high-protein diet may also lead to a higher risk of heart disease. These meats generally contain high amounts of saturated fats as compared to plant protein sources.
  • Excess protein consumed is usually stored as fat so it can lead to weight gain.

Can you consume too much protein?


The short answer is yes, especially if the individual is taking too much protein powder supplements (beyond recommended servings) or on a very-high-protein diet (e.g. Atkins diet).

How do you know if you are taking too much protein (usually in excess of 2g per kg of body weight)?

If you are taking too much protein you will experience some side effects and symptoms. These include indigestion, weight gain, unexplained exhaustion, constant urge to pee, bad breath, headache, constipation, etc.

Having too much protein can cause waste to build up in your blood. Your kidneys may not be able to remove all the extra waste, which can lead to kidney damage (a common condition here in Singapore).

Is protein deficiency possible?

Yes. One in two older adults (aged 50 & above) do not meet their protein requirements for their age in Singapore. This may be attributable to oral issues or chewing difficulties. To overcome this, mix things up with a softer diet of Quinoa Powder, PROATS, tofu, eggs and fish. You should also consider choosing daily food alternatives/staples that contain higher amounts of protein (e.g. Quinoa instead of white rice).

Who should consider a high-protein diet/protein supplements?


Malnourished individuals, the elderly, those who are unable to chew or swallow, and people with sarcopenia (age-related muscle loss). Athletes, bodybuilders, and pregnant women or mothers who are breastfeeding should also consider a high-protein diet.

The Bottom Line

Plant-based protein powders are a practical and efficient way to increase your daily protein consumption, especially for vegetarians and vegans. Look for high-quality sources of protein, such as pea, garbanzo, quinoa, chia seeds, sacha inchi seeds, and hemp protein, with few or no artificial flavors, colors, and other additives when choosing a plant-based protein powder. Remember to follow the do’s and don’ts we discussed in the blog to achieve a healthy and balanced diet. Lastly, consult a medical or diet expert before making a significant change in your diet or exercise routine.