A DASH of salt is beneficial for blood pressure control

According to the Ministry of Health statistics, hypertension is the number one underlying comorbidity of Covid-19 deaths. Patients with hypertension had a 1.82 times higher risk for critical Covid-19 and 2.17 times increased risk for Covid-19 mortality.

Uncontrolled blood pressure was associated with greater risks of adverse outcomes, including heart failure, ICU admission, and mortality among Covid-19 patients. Hence, optimizing the control of hypertension is essential to improve the health-related quality of life and survival in the Covid-19 pandemic.

In order to have good control of blood pressure among individuals with hypertension, they are required to have good compliance to medication and regular blood pressure monitoring in addition to lifestyle and diet modifications.

Among the lifestyle and diet modifications that are recommended is the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet.

This diet has been demonstrated to be effective in managing blood pressure, with the original DASH trial demonstrating a decrease in systolic blood pressure of 11.4mmHg and a decrease in diastolic blood pressure of 5.5mmHg compared to control participants.

The DASH diet advocates the consumption of fiber and potassium via fruits and vegetables, reduction in total and saturated fat via a reduction in meat and animal products, and intake of adequate protein via lean meat and low-fat dairy products instead of high fat or processed meat.

The key features of the DASH diet are as the following:

  • Have 8 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. (One serving is equivalent to one cup of raw leafy vegetable or half cup of cooked vegetables, one whole apple/orange/pear or one cut slice of papaya, pineapple etc)
  • Grains such as brown rice, whole wheat bread or pasta, cereals and oatmeal are preferred.
  • Lean meats, poultry, and fish to be complimented with nuts, seeds and legumes as the protein sources.
  • Milk and milk products (such as cheese and yoghurt) should be fat-free or low-fat.
  • Avoid food that is high in saturated fat (fatty or red meat).
  • Reduce salt intake by replacing salt with herbs, spices, lemon, lime, vinegar, and salt-free seasoning blends in cooking. Avoid preserved and canned foods.
  • Minimize sweets and added sugars.
  • Avoid high fat foods.

The DASH diet complements regular physical activities and one should perform at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week.

Apart from adopting the DASH diet and regular physical activities, other healthy habits to pick up are maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol intake and avoid tobacco use. Getting sufficient sleep and coping with stress are also crucial for preventing hypertension.

With the more sedentary lifestyle brought by the Movement Control Order (MCO), everyone should take hypertension prevention and control more seriously to live well through this Covid-19 pandemic.

The article was written by Dr Yoong Lee Yeen (Doctor of Public Health candidate) and Professor Dr Moy Foong MingIt was first published in Free Malaysia Today and Sin Chew websites.

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