Like most lifestyle-related non-communicable diseases, high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, develops over the course of several years.
It can develop due to unhealthy lifestyle choices including a poor diet, lack of physical activity and excess alcohol use, being overweight and obese or having certain medical conditions like diabetes.
You can have hypertension for years without any signs or symptoms even when blood pressure readings are dangerously high. This is why hypertension is also referred to as ‘the silent killer’.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for hypertension but there are steps one can take to manage it together with medical treatment.
If lifestyle changes are implemented early enough during the pre-hypertensive stage, the risk of developing high blood pressure is greatly reduced.
Pre-hypertension is the state before hypertension when blood pressure is only slightly elevated. If you do not make changes to improve your health at this point, hypertension is inevitable.
Dietary changes are critical in the prevention and management of hypertension.
Changes in diet can lower blood pressure, prevent the development of hypertension and reduce the risk of hypertension-related complications.
The dietary approaches to stop hypertension and the Mediterranean diet encourage increased intake of fruits and vegetables; low-fat dairy products, whole grains, fish, poultry and nuts, and reduced intake of saturated fats, sweets and red meat.
A reduction in dietary salt decreases blood pressure and reduces your risk of developing hypertension and related complications. Keep your salt intake under five grammes of salt per day, slightly under a teaspoonful of salt.
Loss of excess body weight and fats helps stabilise blood pressure and lowers the risk of developing hypertension and related complications. Studies show that reduction in blood pressure occurs when one loses weight even without attaining a normal body mass index.
Being physically active not only helps control blood pressure, it also helps you manage your weight, strengthens your heart and improves your mood.
People who do not exercise have a 30 per cent to 50 per cent increased risk of developing hypertension compared to those who engage in regular physical activity.
Get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day for at least five days a week.
Excess alcohol intake increases the risk of high blood pressure and hypertension-related complications. Cessation of alcohol use helps in controlling blood pressure and reduces the risk of its development.
Non-communicable diseases like hypertension are potentially preventable, develop and progress over long periods of time, have no or little symptoms, and once they develop one has to be on treatment for the rest of their lives.
With this fact in mind, prevention through healthier lifestyle choices is the best option.
Regular medical and nutrition assessments will help you identify any risk for these conditions and put in timely interventions.