In this text, we will discuss hypertension. We will see the causes, symptoms and diagnosis, but above all we will see how to control or treat it through lifestyle modification and the nutritional approach.
Definition of hypertension
Hypertension is characterized by abnormally high blood pressure in the blood circulating in the arteries that is persistent. It is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease. And unfortunately, it is very common in Canada. Indeed, 40% of the Canadian population between 56 and 65 years old suffer from it.
Causes of hypertension
There are two types of hypertension: primary hypertension and secondary hypertension.
Primary hypertension has no known cause, but heredity appears to be a predisposing factor. At a younger age, factors like sodium intake, obesity and stress seem to mainly affect people with a genetic predisposition. However, in people over 65, high sodium intakes are more likely to cause hypertension.
Secondary hypertension is high blood pressure for which the cause is known. The most common causes include kidney disease, hormonal disorders, and certain medications.
Symptoms of hypertension
High blood pressure usually does not cause symptoms until complications develop. That’s why she’s nicknamed the silent killer. Severe or long-established hypertension that has not been treated promotes the development of complications in certain organs such as the heart, brain, kidneys and eyes. These complications can include a heart attack, heart failure, kidney failure, or stroke. Symptoms due to complications from high blood pressure can include fatigue, headache, nausea, vomiting, restlessness, chest pain, confusion, blurred vision, weakness and shortness of breath.t.
Diagnosis of hypertension
The diagnosis of hypertension is made by taking several blood pressure measurements. Several measurements should be taken at different times in order to confirm the abnormal value and make a formal diagnosis. It is important to take several measurements at different times to make sure that high blood pressure persists over time. If high blood pressure is diagnosed, additional examinations and tests are usually done to further the assessment.
Treatment of hypertension
Primary hypertension usually cannot be cured, but it can be controlled to prevent or limit complications. For all people with high blood pressure or hypertension, lifestyle modification, especially in terms of diet and physical activity, is recommended. Antihypertensive drugs may also be prescribed if lifestyle changes are insufficient. These medicines can help control high blood pressure, but it is important that treatment is right for each individual.
For secondary hypertension, treatment usually involves treating the cause of the high blood pressure.
Treatment of hypertension through lifestyle modification
Lifestyle changes that can help lower blood pressure and prevent complications from high blood pressure include:
- Lose weight, for people who are overweight or obese. Even modest weight loss is beneficial and helps lower blood pressure. (See the articles:18 tips to lose weight effectively and sustainably as well asDiet and weight loss).
- Start or increase the practice of physical activity. Regular physical activity can help lower blood pressure and lead to weight loss. It is also beneficial for heart health and overall health. The WHO recommends aiming for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity endurance activity per week. Before starting, consultation with a doctor is recommended.
- Stop smoking. Smoking is one of the risk factors for the development of high blood pressure and heart disease.
- Limit alcohol consumption among consumers. Two drinks or less per day for men and 1 drink or less per day for women.
- Limit sodium intake. Healthy adults need 1500 mg of sodium per day, which is the equivalent of about ½ teaspoon or 2.5 ml of salt.
- Adopt a healthy diet (eg: DASH diet).
- Learn to deal with stress. Some relaxation methods like yoga or meditation can help you relax. (See article:Does stress interfere with your weight loss?)
The nutritional approach to hypertension
The DASH diet, Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension, is the nutritional approach generally recommended by health professionals for people with high blood pressure. The characteristics of this diet are as follows:tes:
- A high consumption offruits and vegetables.
- A significant intake of low fat (<2%) dairy products, such as skim milk and yogurt.
- An important place given to whole grains.
- An increase in the consumption of fish, poultry, legumes and nuts.
- A decrease in the consumption of red meat.
- Low consumption of foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol.
- Sodium consumption limited to 1500-2300 mg / day. This works out to about ½ to 1 teaspoon of salt per day.
- Limited consumption of sugar and sweets.
- A high consumption of foods rich inpotassium, calcium and inmagnesium. Potassium promotes the elimination of sodium.
- Aim for an intake of 30g of fiber per day.
Note: Before starting a diet, it is important to consult a healthcare professional so that they can adapt it to your needs, taking into account your personal situation.
Tips for reducing sodium intakeHere are some tips for reducing sodium consumption on a daily basis,
without compromising on taste:
- Limit the consumption of processed products.
- Cook more often.
- Favor fresh foods.
- Opt for canned foods without added salt. Otherwise, rinsing canned foods will remove some of the sodium.
- Cook grains, such as pasta and rice, without adding salt.
- Use herbs and spices, garlic and onions to season foods.
- Taste food before adding salt.
Article written by:
Marie-Noël Marsan, Nutritionist