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High blood pressure also known as hypertension is a long term medical condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is persistently raised.

It usually does not cause symptoms, but long term high blood pressure is a major risk factor for coronary artery disease, stroke, heart failure, peripheral vascular disease, vision loss and chronic kidney disease.

High blood pressure results from a complex interaction of genes and environmental factors and it rises with aging, making the risk of becoming hypertensive in later life considerable.

Several environmental factors influence blood pressure.

High salt intake raises the blood pressure in salt sensitive individuals; lack of exercise, obesity, and depression also play a role in individual cases.

This condition can be addressed through conscious efforts that begins with the decision to lower the pressure.

Lifestyle Changes

A dietician with a private hospital in Abuja, Mrs Janet Anthony, said that people suffering from hypertension would need to make some lifestyle changes including what they eat to reduce the risk.

She suggested they should eat whole grains, legumes and nuts to lower their blood pressure.

Mrs Anthony explained that whole grains had more fibre and nutrients than refined grains for lifestyle intervention.

She said that lifestyle intervention should be the first line of treatment for treating hypertension.

"You can control your blood pressure by reaching and maintaining a healthy weight and focus on whole grains because they have more fibre and nutrients than refined grains. 

"For instance, use brown rice instead of white rice, whole-wheat pasta instead of regular pasta and whole-grain bread instead of white bread.

"Look for products labelled 100 per cent whole grain or 100 per cent whole wheat. Grains are naturally low in fat, so avoid spreading on butter or adding cream and cheese sauces," she said.

Mrs Anthony further recommended an inclusion of lean poultry, fish and low-fat or fat-free dairy products.

"Increase your vegetable intake (four to five servings a day) tomatoes, carrots, cucumber, sweet potatoes, greens and other vegetables are full of fibre, vitamins, and such minerals as potassium and magnesium.

"Examples of one serving include one cup of raw leafy green vegetables or half cup of raw or cooked vegetables.

"Include fruits in your daily menu plan (four to five servings a day). Many fruits need little preparation to become a healthy part of a meal or snack," she said.

The dietician said that examples of one serving include one medium fruit or half cup of fresh juice, limiting use of meat, butter, cheese, whole milk, cream and eggs in your diet.

She also highlighted that people should avoid “trans fat’’, commonly found in such processed foods as crackers, baked goods and fried items.

Mrs Anthony also stressed the need for a reduction alcohol intake, engagement in weight shedding, regular physical activity, and reduction of sodium to no more than 1,500 mg/day.

According to her, these lifestyle modifications are considered the best way to treat hypertension.

She told the News Agency of Nigeria that since high blood pressure was a leading cause of heart disease, it was important to have one’s blood pressure checked regularly and to take steps to keep blood pressure within a healthy range.

"Visit a dietitian to help you manage your diet adequately.

"Physicians recommend that one maintains blood pressure at or below 120/80 mmHg, but high blood pressure is medically defined as any reading higher than 140/90 mmHg,’’ she added.