Blood pressure refers to the force exerted by the blood of a person against his or her arterial walls as his or her heart beats and relaxes. The pressure exerted while his or her heart beats or pumps blood is what is called the “systolic pressure” while the pressure exerted while his or her heart relaxes between every heartbeat during which blood is flowing back to the heart is the “diastolic pressure.” The number usually shown first or positioned on top is his or her systolic pressure while his or her diastolic pressure is written below the systolic pressure reading. A blood pressure reading of less than 120 mmHg (systolic) and 80 mmHg (diastolic) is considered normal. On the other hand, blood pressure readings of from 140 systolic and above and/or 90 or more in diastolic pressure are already considered high blood pressure or hypertension. Any readings in between the normal and hypertension levels are in the pre-hypertension blood pressure level (Anderson, Young, and Long, 2008).
The heart of a hypertensive person works harder than the heart of another who has a normal blood pressure and his or her arteries also harden. These conditions make a hypertensive person very vulnerable to cardiac disease and could even suffer stroke. He or she could also develop a kidney disease or become blind. In some people, the causes could not be specifically pinpointed while in others, hypertension occurs when their arteries become narrow or their hearts beat abnormally faster or stronger. Blood pressure could also be caused by other medical problems. While hypertension has no cure, this condition could both be prevented and managed or brought under control (National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, n.d.).
Diet plays an important role in the prevention and control of hypertension. In other words, a healthy diet enables a person from acquiring a high blood pressure and helps an already hypertensive person control his or her blood pressure. For instance, eating lots of vegetables really helps. As a matter of fact, it has been observed that vegetarians generally have lower blood pressure readings. Some of the vegetables which have been found to be effective against hypertension are: Celery (four stalks a day could lower one’s blood pressure); Garlic, also known as “a wonder drug for [the] heart” (consuming at least one clove everyday helps in controlling blood pressure); Onion, otherwise known as Garlic’s cousin (a daily intake of 2-3 tablespoons of an essential oil made from Onion could lower one’s systolic reading by as much as 25 points and his or her diastolic reading by as much as 15 points); Tomato, which is rich in “gamma-amino butyric acid”; Broccoli and Carrot, which contain ingredients and compounds which effectively lower one’s blood pressure; Saffron, which is popular among the Arabs and which contains crocetin, a chemical which lowers blood pressure; and different spices such as “fennel, oregano, black pepper, basil and tarragon” (Jacob, 2009).
A diet which is high in fiber has also been found to be effective as far as preventing and controlling hypertension is concerned. The most effective anti-hypertensive fibers are those which are easily soluble in water like “oat bran, apple pectin, psyllium seeds, and guar gum.” Aside from preventing an elevated blood pressure, these fibers could also help in lowering the level of cholesterol in the body and also helps in reducing weight. Ingesting 1-3 tablespoons daily of a “herbal bulking formula” which contains these fibers could effectively reduce blood pressure (Jacob, 2009).
A diet which is low in sugar and salt also helps in reducing blood pressure. Although it has not yet been fully explained, researchers suspect that sugar is responsible for an increased production of adrenaline which constricts the blood vessels. Sugar is also believed responsible for retaining sodium in the body. Salt and sodium elevate one’s blood pressure hence, they should be avoided. Studies have already shown that people whose diets are high in salt have generally higher blood pressure readings than those who are eating less salt. For instance, the Japanese have been found to have the highest blood pressure readings in the world because their food “is among the saltiest in the world.” In the case of the blacks, those who are still living in Africa and who are eating food which are low in salt but with high fiber content have generally lower blood pressure readings than African-Americans. Since the latter’s diet contains a high level of salt and less fiber, almost half of them have hypertension. Reducing the intake of salt and sodium, however, should be complemented with a high intake of potassium so that a person could prevent or control hypertension (Jacob, 2009). Some foods with high potassium content are: Lima beans (955 mg/cup); Winter Squash (896 mg/cup); cooked Spinach (839 mg/cup); dried Prunes (828 mg/cup); Prune juice (707 mg/cup); raw Bananas (594 mg/cup); and Orange juice (496 mg/cup) (NHLBI, n.d.).
Anderson, J., Young, L., and Long, E. (2008). Diet and Hypertension. Colorado State
University Extension. Retrieved January 15, 2009, from
Jacob, George. (2009). Food/Diet Therapy for Hypertension. Retrieved January 15, 2009,
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. (n.d.). Your Guide to Lowering High Blood
Pressure. Retrieved January 15, 2009, from http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/hbp/index.html