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High Blood Pressure Diet | Med-Health.net
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High Blood Pressure Diet

Proper diet is one of the components of lifestyle modifications recommended for primary prevention and treatment of high blood pressure (hypertension). Effects of these lifestyle modifications are clearly evident in patients with high blood pressure and they have also been shown to prevent the development of future hypertension in people with normal blood pressure readings.

Dietary modifications that have been found effective in lowering the blood pressure are reduction in salt (common salt, NaCl) intake, increased potassium intake, moderation of alcohol consumption, weight reduction and intake of an overall healthier diet. These modifications not only reduce the blood pressure readings, but also improve the overall risk for cardiovascular diseases. The table below mentions the goals of these measures.

High Blood Pressure Diet

Healthier Diet (DASH-type Dietary Plan)

Diet rich in fruits, vegetable and low-fat dairy products. Also whole grain products, fish, poultry and nuts.

Reduced dietary intake of saturated and total fat. Reduced intake of lean red meat, sweets, added sugars and sugar containing beverages

Dietary Salt Reduction

Goal is to reduce the daily dietary intake of common salt (NaCl) to less than 6 g.

Reduction of Alcohol Consumption

Men should not drink more than 2 drinks per day.

Women should not drink more than 1 drink per day.

(One Drink = 14 g of Ethanol)

Weight Reduction

Goal is to reduce weight to achieve a Body Mass Index of <25 kg/m2 by reducing total calorie intake.

People with high blood pressure, and also people with normal blood pressure should adopt an overall healthier diet. The recommended diet is known as DASH-type dietary plan based on the name of research study that proved the effectiveness of such diet in reducing the blood pressure (DASH = Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). A diet rich in fruits, vegetable and low-fat dairy products is beneficial and helps in reduction of blood pressure. However, the intake of saturated and total fat should be reduced. A diet rich in calcium, magnesium and potassium helps in reduction of blood pressure and supplementation of salts of these is being evaluated for treatment of hypertension. Dairy products are rich source of calcium while fruits and vegetables are rich source of potassium and magnesium. Complete information on DASH-type dietary plan can be found here in the guide book published by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Reduced dietary intake of common salt (Sodium Chloride) causes a reduction in blood pressure. The current recommendation for dietary intake of sodium chloride is to limit the daily dietary intake to less than 6 g per day. On an average, this will result in 4 mm Hg reduction in systolic blood pressure and 2 mm Hg reduction in diastolic blood pressure in people with high blood pressure. High sodium intake combined with low potassium, calcium, and magnesium intake is considered more important for development of hypertension compared to increased sodium intake alone. The DASH-type dietary plan results in increased intake of potassium, magnesium and calcium.

Role of alcohol is a little bit complex. Small amount of alcohol is beneficial for overall health of the cardiovascular system, but the beneficial effects are lost when the amount of daily intake is increased. Currently, a reduction in daily intake of alcohol is recommended for lowering the blood pressure. Men should not drink more than 2 drinks of alcohol and women should not drink more than 1 drink of alcohol. Above these limits, the net effect of alcohol consumption is harmful for the body. These recommendations are based on assumption that one drink contains ~14 g of ethanol.

In obese and overweight individuals, dietary modifications should also be aimed at reducing the total caloric intake to achieve weight reduction. Target goal is to achieve a body mass index of less than <25 kg/m2. On an average, approximately 6 mm Hg reduction in systolic blood pressure and 3 mm Hg reduction in diastolic blood pressure is observed with reduction of approximately 9 kg body weight. Per se, all these small amounts of reductions in blood pressure may not look significant. However, when combined with other lifestyle modifications, all these small reductions combined together result in a significant reduction of blood pressure in people with high blood pressure.