What exactly is hypertension?

HEATHER BARNES heather.barnes@loblaw.ca @SaltWireNetwork



SaltWire Network



May is Hypertension Awareness Month and a great reminder for us to check in on our heart health. Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is the most common heart health issue that often goes undetected. Simple lifestyle changes and regular blood pressure monitoring can help lower your risk. While family doctors and local pharmacists are great resources, how we nourish our bodies can also positively affect heart health. As your local in-store registered dietitian, here are my top tips for taking care of your heart: Add heart healthy foods - Diet is a big factor in heart health but making any changes to our diet can feel daunting. One tip I like to share to make it easier is to look at what you can add to your diet instead of focusing on what should be removed or minimized. Adding in foods with more heart-healthy nutrients will naturally “shift” your overall diet in a positive direction without making you feel you are depriving yourself of other foods you enjoy. A great way to start is by adding a plant-based meal to your dinner lineup once a week. Plantbased proteins are a great addition to a heart-healthy diet as they contain fibre, protein, and little to no saturated fats. Choose no - or low - sodium food options - In some people, too much sodium causes blood pressure to rise. And since high blood pressure increases your risk for heart disease and stroke, it is important to be aware of sodium intake. The Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends adults consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day (the equivalent of one teaspoon of table salt). Most of the sodium we consume (77 per cent) comes from processed foods. Only about 11 per cent is added during preparation or at the table, with the remainder occurring naturally in foods — something to keep in mind! Not all fats increase your risk of heart disease - Fat can be broken into three main categories: trans, saturated and unsaturated. Unsaturated fats are a good option, as they can help lower your “bad” LDL cholesterol and raise your “good” HDL cholesterol. Nuts and seeds, avocados, plant-based oils and fatty fish are all great sources of unsaturated fats. Canada's Food Guide recommends limiting your intake trans fats and saturated fats (primarily found in animal products such as meat and dairy, as well as processed convenience foods), as research has shown excess consumption of these fats is linked to heart disease. Try swapping butter for oils rich in unsaturated fats like olive oil, avocado oil or canola oil. Fibre is heart healthy Fibre can also be divided into subcategories: insoluble and soluble. Soluble fibre dissolves in water, acting like a gel and can help lower cholesterol and reduce fat absorption. Good sources of soluble fibre are oat bran, barley, legumes (peas, beans, lentils) and chia or flax seeds. Insoluble fibre helps keep us regular and promotes a healthy digestive system and sources include nuts, whole grains, vegetables and fruits. It's important to include both forms of fibre in our diet, especially soluble fibre for its heart health benefits. Try to aim for 10g of soluble fibre per day. If you need help with making nutrition choices that will benefit your heart, I am here to help. I can work with you one-on-one to develop a customized and easy-to-follow plan. This month is also a perfect time to get your blood pressure checked. This can be as simple as stopping by the instore pharmacy on your next grocery day. Heather Barnes is a registered dietitian with Atlantic Superstore in Halifax. Do you have a nutrition health goal in mind? Contact Heather by phone at 902-401-3869, or by email at heather.barnes@ loblaw.ca, or book an inperson or virtual consult at bookadietitian.ca. Group programming and community events will resume as per provincial guidelines and safety measures.