High blood pressure or hypertension is a major concern in India, affecting millions and it is often called the “silent killer” due to a lack of noticeable symptoms, which can significantly raise the risk of heart attacks, strokes and kidney problems. However, through lifestyle modifications, hypertension can be managed and one can achieve healthy blood pressure levels while significantly reducing the risk of complications.

Managing hypertension in India: Adopt these 5 lifestyle tweaks for better heart health (Image by Freepik)

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Mahesh DM, consultant – Endocrinology at Aster CMI Hospital in Bangalore, suggested a few easy-to-adopt ways to manage blood pressure and improve overall health –

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1. Embrace a DASH diet plan:

The DASH menu (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is an effective method of reducing blood pressure levels. Incorporate fruits, vegetables, and whole grains as they are packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber, all of which contribute to a healthy heart and overall well-being. Aim for at least five servings daily.

  • Fruits and vegetables: Incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet as they provide a wealth of vitamins and minerals, including potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure.
  • Whole grains and millets: Compared to refined grains, whole grains are digested more slowly, leading to steadier blood sugar levels and potentially reduced blood pressure. Millet and oats are particularly good choices due to their high content of complex carbohydrates. These complex carbs take longer to break down into sugars, providing sustained energy and helping you feel satisfied for a longer period. This can be especially helpful in managing weight, which can positively impact blood pressure control.

These food categories (fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) are all high in fiber, promoting satiety, making one feel fuller for longer, and less likely to overeat, especially unhealthy options.

Daily Action Plan:

  • Plan your meals: Create a weekly menu using DASH diet principles to avoid unhealthy cravings. (DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.)
  • Cook more at home: Take control of your salt and fat intake by cooking meals yourself.
  • Read food labels: Choose pre-packaged meals with lower sodium content.

2. Lower your salt intake:

Sodium is a major culprit of high blood pressure. The average Indian takes in sodium far more than the daily limit recommended. So, here’s what you should do:

  • Avoid processed foods: They’re loaded with hidden salt. Choose fresh, whole foods instead.
  • Skip adding extra salt at the table. Flavor your food with herbs, spices, or with a dash of lemon.
  • Beware sneaky sodium: Watch out for hidden salt in seemingly healthy options like canned veggies, pickles, and ready-to-eat sauces.

Action Plan

  • Reduce salt intake gradually each time until about 2–3 weeks are over. Your taste buds will adjust accordingly.
  • Experiment with spice, we have multiple Indian spice options that have multiple health benefits. Try them instead of adding more sodium for taste.

3. Maintain Active Lifestyle:

Regular physical activity is key to controlling high blood pressure. Make it a habit to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days.

Action Plan

Try different activities until you find your fit. Start slow and gradually increase intensity as you gain strength. Team up with a friend – stay motivated, and accountable, and enjoy the physical activity that you choose.

4. Stress Management:

Stress over the long term can contribute to high blood pressure. This can be managed by:

  • Relax and unwind: Embrace yoga or meditation for mind-body calmness. Deep breathing exercises are also powerful stressbusters.
  • Prioritise sleep: Aim for 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night. Sleep deprivation worsens stress.
  • Do what you love: Make time for hobbies that bring you joy and promote relaxation.

5. Maintain a Healthy Weight:

Losing a few kilograms can help a lot in controlling high blood pressure. Concentrate on losing weight healthily by eating a balanced diet and doing exercise regularly.

Lifestyle changes work best when coupled with proper medical attention. Visit your doctor for checkups on blood pressure as well as discuss personal requirements frequently.