Hypertension induced by the intake of dietary salt was responsible for two million of the 10.8 million deaths caused due to high blood pressure in 2019, says a report recently released by the World Health Organization (WHO).
“Of all the deaths from cardiovascular causes that occurred in 2019, almost 2 million were attributed to sodium consumption that results in 24-hour urinary sodium excretion above the reference level of 1 to 5 grams per day,” according to the first-ever global report on hypertension. “This is a larger number than any other dietary factor.”
Global average dietary sodium intake was around 4310 mg/day (10.78g per day), which is higher than the WHO-recommended level of less than 2000 mg/day (less than 5g) from all food sources, adds the report.
High risk factors for hypertension
The WHO report has stated that hypertension is a condition which could be managed in a cost-effective manner, if detected and addressed on time with proper dietary and lifestyle amendments. The main risk factors for hypertension listed include:
- High dietary intake of sodium
- Obesity and its co-morbidities
- Alcohol and tobacco usage
- Sedentary lifestyle.
“Obese people with hypertension are at a higher risk of cardiac arrest. Obesity coexists with multiple conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and dyslipidemia (high cholesterol) collectively referred to as metabolic syndrome or syndrome X,” pointed out , Dr Rajesh Bhat, cardiologist, Kasturba Medical College Hospital, Mangalore in a recent interaction with Happiest Health to highlight the high risk of heart attack and strokes in people with hypertension.
The report also lists genetics, pollution, extreme cold temperature and high-altitude conditions as other factors that spike blood pressure in people.
Go easy on salt, munch on potassium and nitrate rich veggies
The WHO report also lists the perfect dietary routine to manage hypertension and emphasizes on decreasing salt intake and opt for potassium and nitrate rich vegetables along with fruits which improve blood circulation, regulate blood pressure and ensure that your heart keeps pumping in a healthy manner.
“The healthiest dietary intervention for hypertension management would be to reduce dietary salt intake along with increased and balanced healthy food rich in fiber proteins and minerals,” said Dr. Thejaswi N Marla, cardio thoracic vascular surgeon, Fortis Malar hospital, Chennai in a telephonic interview to Happiest Health last week. It has also been pointed out in the report that sodium reduction is the most cost effective way to reduce and manage hypertension.
Interestingly high intake of nitrate rich food has also been listed as another healthy dietary way to regulate blood pressure. Nitric oxide is our body’s natural blood pressure regulator. Interestingly, it is not the gut bacteria but the oral bacteria that are responsible for breaking down nitrates from green leafy vegetables into nitric oxide, which plays a key role in regulating blood pressure.
Speaking to Happiest Health earlier on the role of nitric oxide in regulating blood pressure, Dr Sunil Dwivedi, consultant, cardiology, Manipal Hospitals, Millers road, Bengaluru said that the vascular endothelium lining our arteries, can produce nitric oxide, but it is mostly broken down by the oral bacteria from nitrate-rich food, mainly vegetables. He also added that nitric oxide dilates the arteries and blood vessels. It also plays a major role in regulating your blood pressure and ensuring smooth blood circulation in your body.
Better hypertension management could save 4.6 million lives in India
The report also categorically points out that if proper hypertension management is ensured then at least 4.6 million lives could be saved in India by 2040. Hypertension was responsible for 52 percent of the 25,66,000 deaths reported due to cardiovascular disease in 2019 in India. Apart from all deaths caused due to hypertensive heart disease, hypertension was also responsible for 53 percent of total deaths due to heart conditions and strokes.
Tips to manage blood pressure naturally
- Eat more fruits and green vegetables
- Avoid junk and processed food
- Maintain healthy body weight
- Go easy on salt in your food
- Try to stay calm and relaxed
- Maintain a healthy sleep schedule
High blood pressure is one of the leading causes of death due to cardiovascular conditions across the globe. The main factors contributing to hypertension related complications include high intake of dietary sodium, tobacco usage and alcohol consumption. The report also points out that maintaining dietary and lifestyle amendments would help to manage hypertension in a cost-effective manner.