Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida
Health & Wellness

Searching for a Silent Killer, Hypertension – Part III


There are many ways to prevent or at least delay the onset of hypertension. Lifestyle is the key factor and the following choices can help control your BP. I have gone over some of these ideas before in this column but they are worth reemphasizing.

1. Maintain a healthy weight.
“BP rises steadily as body weight increases, so overweight is a major risk factor,” according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI). You already know, it is an independent risk factor for heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, cancer, etc. Most overweight people, especially men, have ‘abdominal obesity’ nicknamed ‘killer bellies.’ So, lose that gut.

What is your BMI (Body Mass Ix)? That is a good place to start. Obesity is steadily increasing among Indians too. To lose weight safely, you must try to eat fewer calories and increase physical activity. Avoid ghee, whole milk and whole milk products if you can. Go easy on those gelabies, laddus, etc., that are full of cane sugar. Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, at least five servings a day, and whole grain products. Low-fat dairy products are great, they contain three important elements: calcium, potassium and magnesium that help to reduce your BP. A high-fiber diet – oatmeal, lentils, legumes, peas, etc., are great along with soy protein and fish. Sorry, diet pills and those vitamins and supplements usually don’t work either.

2. Get active. Exercise regularly.
Regular aerobic exercise can tone your heart, blood vessels and muscles and keep your blood pressure low and is helpful in losing weight. American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-level activity, for a minimum of five days a week, but preferably every day. Moderate-level activities include walking briskly; general housecleaning; mowing the lawn with power mower; gardening, dancing and cycling at a moderate speed. Walking is the best thing you can do for your BP and heart; the more you walk, the longer you live.

3. Limit your salt intake.
“Most people eat more salt and sodium than they need,” according to the NHLBI. A diet too high in sodium can cause the body to retain water, which increases the volume of blood in circulation, which in turn increases the blood pressure. Salt consumption is quite high in America, an average person consuming about 10 grams a day when only 2.5 grams (about a teaspoon only) would suffice.

So, get rid of the salt shaker from your dining table. Go easy on the processed foods, sodas, curries and pickles. Use less salt for cooking. Healthy snacking, please. Munch on veggies and nuts instead of pizza, pretzels and potato chips. Avoid high-salt foods, such as soy sauce, chicken broth, pickles, canned soups, bacon, ham and many fast foods and frozen dishes. Read labels and look at the sodium content of what you buying. Colas and other sodas contain a lot of salt too. Purchase no- or low-salt products whenever possible.

4. Increase your intake of potassium.
It can help flush sodium from the body. Good sources of potassium include mangoes, cantaloupe, cooked tomatoes, bananas, baked potatoes, strawberries and summer squash. The recommended daily intake is to at least 3,500 mg of potassium each day. Other nutrients important for blood pressure are magnesium, 500 mg a day; calcium, 1,240 mg; protein, 90 grams; and fiber, 30 grams.

5. No smoking please.
You already know about the adverse effects of cigarette smoking. It has been the topic of a media blitz for the past few years. Ditto with other tobacco products such as chewing tobacco, cigars, snuff, etc. Inhaling even one cigarette dramatically increases your BP.
Smoking causes immediate and long term rise in BP. So, if you don’t smoke, don’t start and if you do, there are many ways to get rid of the habit.

6. Say no to drugs
Same advice applies to other addictive habits such as non-prescription drugs and chemicals. Recently, I saw a patient in our volunteer health clinic, who at the young age of 37, already had a heart attack and stroke from her drug habit. Now, she is quite hypertensive needing lifelong therapy. The ravages of drug addiction couldn’t be any more visible!

Will conclude in the next issue . . .

Dr. M. P. Ravindra Nathan is a Brooksville cardiologist.

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