High Blood Pressure & Your Diet

High blood pressure, also known as Hypertension is a serious condition that can lead to coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, and other health problems. "Blood pressure" is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps out blood. If this pressure rises and stays high over time, it can damage the body in many ways.

Blood pressure numbers include systolic and diastolic pressures. Systolic blood pressure is the pressure when the heart beats while pumping blood. Diastolic blood pressure is the pressure when the heart is at rest between beats. You will most often see blood pressure numbers written with the systolic number above or before the diastolic, such as 120/80 mmHg. The table below shows normal numbers for adults. It also shows which numbers put you at greater risk for health problems. Blood pressure tends to go up and down, even in people who have normal blood pressure. If your numbers stay above normal most of the time, you're at risk.

Categories for Blood Pressure Levels in Adults (in mmHg, or millimeters of mercury)

Category Systolic (top number)   Diastolic (bottom number)
Normal Less than 120


And Less than 80
Prehypertension 120–139 Or 80–89
High blood pressure      
     Stage 1 140–159 Or 90–99
     Stage 2 160 or higher Or 100 or higher

The ranges in the table apply to most adults (aged 18 and older) who don't have short-term serious illnesses. All levels above 120/80 mmHg raise your risk, and the risk grows as blood pressure levels rise. Pre-hypertension means that you are likely to end up with High Blood Pressure, unless you take steps to prevent it.

Causes of high blood pressure include:

  • Age (those above 45 are at higher risk)
  • Race (African Americans are at greater risk)
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Gender (Risk is higher in men than in women)
  • Family history
  • Unhealthy lifestyle habits & smoking

Self Help

  • Regular exercise improves physical fitness (If not physically active brisk walking of 30 – 60 minutes, 7 days per week (minimum 5 days a week), and reducing weight will help to reduce blood pressure. These lifestyle changes are very important for those who are significantly overweight.
  • Reduce salt consumption (to begin with, addition of salt to cooked food and salads should be avoided. Avoid foods which are rich in salt. Examples include butter, pickle, papad, processed cheese and other foods etc. Attempt continuing a maximum of 1 teaspoon of salt for the whole day or 4 teaspoons for a family of four)

If overweight or obese, reduce weight by:

  • Decreasing consumption of high fat/oily foods, sugary foods and avoiding junk foods
  • Eating fresh locally available vegetables/berries/fruits 5 times a day or five servings (equivalent to a small cup of cut fruits/ vegetables)

Proportionally increase:

  • Whole grains, whole pulses, locally available nuts (melon seeds, ground nuts, walnuts) in the diet.
  • Smoking should be stopped altogether.
  • Alcohol consumption should be moderated.
  • Stress has been identified as a contributing factor, and efforts should be made to reduce stress by allowing more time for relaxation and leisure pursuits.