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Health official outlines dietary plan to help prevent hypertension

Health official outlines dietary plan to help prevent hypertension


Vincentians have been encouraged to make traditional and cultural shifts in their diets, as the battle against hypertension took centre stage this week.{{more}}

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, was the main focus of the Ministry of Health’s one-day symposium at the Methodist Church Hall on Monday, as part of the observance of World Health Day (April 7).

The Ministry zeroed in on high blood pressure, one of the deadly but preventable non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

NCDs are responsible for up to 70 per cent of deaths in St Vincent and the Grenadines each year, Ministry officials say.

Andrea Robin, chief nutritionist promoted the DASH eating Plan (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension), which she said calls for adjustments in the way individuals are used to eating, especially when it comes to the intake of sodium and potassium.

“Our bodies need sodium in tiny amounts, but we tend to consume far more than we need…. Using less salt and sodium is very critical to controlling blood pressure in our population, both in those who suffer from high blood pressure and those who do not have it,” Robin pointed out.

“Most of the salts we consume in our diets is hidden, that is, found in processed foods, found in condiments like our maggi cubes, soy sauce, MSG and seasoned salts, and processed foods, salt fish, salted pigtail, salami, sausages, corned beef, luncheon meats.

“We are now getting to a lot more pre-cooked foods, pizza, cake and pancake mixes, breakfast cereals, and they are high in baking soda and sodium inside the packages, already separate from what we are going to add.”

The nutritionist said that individuals can reduce their sodium intake by using fresh poultry, fish and lean meats, rather than salted or processed foods.

She also suggested the use of onion, garlic and herbs, which are “low vehicles of sodium”, and also recommended cooking foods with little or no salt.

With regard to potassium, Robin noted that persons with low potassium levels may also have increased risk of high blood pressure, and advised that the use of high potassium foods are a safeguard against the disease.

“The DASH eating plan has emphasized heavy use of fruits and vegetables, more than what most persons are accustomed… so you’re talking about eight to ten servings of vegetables.

“When we look at the fact that most people are not consuming the four to five servings that we currently recommend, if you look at what you ate today or yesterday or even for the rest of the week, are you having four to five a day?

“The goal is to meet your potassium and magnesium and blood pressure control levels.

“So, have two servings of vegetables at each meal, use fruits as after meal desserts or between meal snacks. We can eat fruits instead of biscuits and crackers, which are high in sodium… use less than three teaspoons of sugar daily.

“We have a diet that is high in fruits, but we have to eat peas and nuts as well. We have to have our whole grains and in the DASH diet, we leaving the red meat behind: poultry, fish and low fat dairy foods, that is a real paradigm shift for Vincentians, especially for our men, who love their meats,” Robin said.

Robin also suggested that individuals read food labels, in order to make wiser decisions when selecting foods, make meats a part of the meal instead of the focus, and even think of having two or more meatless meals per week, as part of the shift.

She said that the shift to the DASH diet should be a gradual one and individuals could be guaranteed that there would be a significant decrease in blood pressure when persons consumed these diets.(JJ)