High blood pressure is defined as a repeatedly elevated blood pressure in the arteries exceeding 140/90 mmHg.
The systolic reading correlates to the maximum pressure sustained when the heart contracts, while the diastolic reading reflects the minimum pressure when the heart relaxes in between successive beats.
In almost all contemporary societies, blood pressure rises with ageing and the risk of becoming hypertensive in later life is considerable.
High blood pressure can either be classified as primary, whereby no specific underlying medical cause is found in around 90 to 95 per cent of cases or as secondary, in the remaining five to10 per cent of the cases, where it is caused by other pre-existing conditions that affect the kidneys, arteries, heart or the endocrine system.
High blood pressure is rarely accompanied by any symptoms, hence the reason behind the term ‘silent killer’. It is usually identified when one seeks healthcare advice for an unrelated problem. Having said that, certain people with an elevated blood pressure may still report headaches, light-headedness, tinnitus or altered vision as their chief presenting complaints.
High blood pressure is rarely accompanied by any symptoms, hence the reason behind the term ‘silent killer’
In addition, long-standing, uncontrolled high blood pressure has serious health implications as it is a major risk factor for cardiovascular events. Such condition puts a significant amount of strain on the heart, possibly leading to the abnormal thickening of the myocardium and coronary artery disease. This condition is also a major risk factor for stroke, aortic aneurysm, peripheral arterial disease, abnormal blood vessel changes in the retina as well as chronic kidney disease. Moreover, high blood pressure may also occur in expecting mothers during pregnancy. This may be a first indication of the development of pre-eclampsia.
In order to control blood pressure, it should be monitored regularly. Incorporating a healthy lifestyle as part of our daily routine would also help in preventing the formation of this condition.
Dietary and lifestyle changes can improve blood pressure control and decrease the risk of health complications. Lifestyle factors that influence blood pressure include aerobic physical activity, weight loss, reduced dietary salt intake, increased consumption of fruits, vegetables and low-fat products as well as reduced alcohol and nicotine intake.
Antihypertensive drug treatments may, however, still be necessary in those individuals for whom such changes are not effective enough.
Georgiana Farrugia Bonnici is a diagnostic radiographer and medical doctor while Antonella Grima is a public health specialist and state-registered nutritionist. For updates on nutrition, lifestyle modifications and holistic health, like and follow the below links.
A simple, healthy recipe to keep blood pressure under control
Wholegrain pasta salad requires minimal cooking and preparation time. And all of its ingredients ‒ cherry tomatoes, cooked chickpeas, walnuts, mixed vegetable salad, chia seeds, a few berries, oregano, basil and extra virgin olive oil ‒ have nutritional benefits:
Grains: Wholegrains, such as wholegrain pasta, are a good source of carbohydrates, fibre and B vitamins. The incorporation of wholegrains in your diet can help in avoiding sugar cravings and frequent snacking, thus optimising weight control. As a rule of thumb, a portion of grains for a main meal should be around 60g for women and 85g for men. The rest of the plate can be filled with plenty of nutritious vegetables to help in reaching satiation and keep the amount of calories in the meal on the lower end.
Tomatoes: Tomatoes are rich in vitamin C and lycopene. One of the properties of lycopene is that it helps lower blood pressure, making tomatoes excellent for keeping blood pressure under control. For tomato sauces, it is best to go for fresh tomatoes and cook the sauce from scratch. Alternatively, look for low-salt canned tomatoes in order to reduce the amount of salt in the meal.
Legumes: Legumes such as chickpeas are an essential part of the Mediterranean diet. They are linked to longevity and good bowel health. Legumes are a rich source of fibre, help control weight, while also improving blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Legumes are an excellent plant-based sources of protein, which is an alternative to meat. It is important to cook legumes from scratch using no salt or rinse canned legumes thoroughly under running water to reduce the salt content if you suffer from high blood pressure.
Nuts and seeds: Apart from protein and fibre, nuts and seeds are also rich in anti-inflammatory omega 3 oils. Thus, they promote general well-being, lower bad cholesterol levels and aid in the prevention of diseases related to the circulatory system, by reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. When choosing nuts, always go for unsalted options. You may oven-roast them in order to enhance their flavours and add crunch.
Green leafy vegetables: These are very low in calories and help in filling your plate, and in keeping you feeling fuller for longer. Leafy greens provide fibre, iron, calcium and folic acid. In fact, they are the primary source of folic acid which helps prevent heart disease, boosts the regeneration of the nervous system and prevents any foetal-related conditions during pregnancy, among other diseases. Leafy greens are also rich in potassium, which helps the kidneys eliminate extra sodium and keep blood pressure under control.
Herbs: The use of herbs gives our food a delicious taste, while also reducing the need for using salt and sauces. All herbs impart health benefits and are rich in phytonutrients that reduce inflammation and combat diseases. Ingredients such as basil, garlic and cinnamon may also play a role in controlling blood pressure. As always, moderation is key.
Extra virgin olive oil: Extra virgin olive oil is a source of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid and is one of the components of the Mediterranean diet. When consumed in moderation, it helps prevent heart and inflammatory diseases and contributes towards good health and longevity.
Cook the wholegrain pasta for around 10 minutes (using no salt) and, in the meantime, prepare the raw ingredients. Mix everything together and this pasta salad is ready to serve. It can also be served cold.
Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.