HYPERTENSION is one of the leading causes of death in Jamaica, and is marked by sustained elevation in blood pressure, presented as an average blood pressure reading of 140/90. Among other things, high blood pressure is one of the leading risk factors for heart disease.
Nutritionist and wellness coach Donovan Grants say that there are several ways that you can improve your prospects for wellness, noting that the secret to staving off heart disease, hypertension, or staying on top of both, lies in lifestyle and dietary changes.
“Taking care of your heart means eating the right foods, exercising and staying away from stressful situations. Your heart requires foods that are low in calories, rich in nutrients, and low in sodium to be healthiest,” Grant explained.
Below he shares what are the best foods to eat when your aim is to take care of your heart.
Use fresh herbs instead of salt
A diet high in sodium can lead to hypertension, a disease that can have catastrophic effects on the heart. What happens is that high sodium levels cause the body to retain water, and when this happens the stored water raises your blood pressure, which then impacts the heart, kidneys and brain negatively. But that doesn't mean that you have to eat bland foods. Grant said that what you can do is reduce your salt intake and use natural herbs such as rosemary, thyme and sage.
A little red wine is good for the heart, but Grant says that this is not unwritten permission to overindulge, because consuming too much alcohol, even if it's red wine, can be bad for the heart. An average of one glass daily, however, can boost protection of your artery walls as well as your good cholesterol.
Choose a low-fat diet
Limit your intake of saturated and trans fats. This means avoiding things such as fast food, fatty beef and other kinds of meat such as pork or foods that are rich in margarine or butter. They increase the risk of heart disease, especially in women. Go instead for low-fat yoghurt, cheese, milk and soy.
Fresh and frozen fruits such as oranges, apples and cherries are rich in antioxidants which can help to stave off inflammation in the heart. Fruits are also rich in fibre which helps to lower cholesterol levels.
Green leafy vegetables such as kale, pak choi, spinach and broccoli are packed with compounds that are great for the heart. Grant said that among their many benefits is their ability to lower cholesterol, reduce blood pressure and aid in weight management.
Legumes such as beans, peas and lentils are excellent sources of protein. They make a good substitute for meat proteins because they contain less fat and unlike meat, they don't have cholesterol.
Up your intake of polyunsaturated fats
Generally, you are told to stay away from fatty foods because they are bad for the heart. However, some fats serve the heart very well. They can be found in foods such as avocado, nuts such as walnuts and almonds, and seeds. Grant says that you should take a keen interest in salmon and other oily fish, in particular, to include in your diet. He explained that they are very rich in omega-3 which has proven effective in reducing one's chances of developing conditions such as heart rhythm disorders. He says that it also has a very good effect on your blood pressure.
Fibre-rich foods such as sweet potatoes, select whole grains such as quinoa, steel oats and barley are very effective in lowering cholesterol levels. Grant says that they will also keep you filled for much longer, and eating these foods consistently may help to keep your blood sugar levels stable.