High blood pressure is associated with diabetes, stroke, heart disease, kidney failure and death.
However, it can be controlled with healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle, says Dr Levi Kwarisiima, a cardiologist at Braakline Medical Centre in Bwaise. Besides reducing your sodium intake, it is important to watch what you eat.

The dried red flowers of the hibiscus plant contain antioxidants that fight free radical damage caused by poor diet and constant exposure to dangerous chemicals. Dr Kwarisiima says, “Hibiscus has a number of health benefits including fighting bacteria and aiding weight loss. Hibiscus tea can be made by soaking hibiscus flowers in boiling water for five minutes.”
Hibiscus has the potential to lower blood pressure, thus contributing greatly to improving cardiovascular health. Be careful however not to take it if you have low blood pressure.

Sunflower seeds
Sunflower seeds are rich in vitamin E, folic acid, protein and fibre. They help to lower blood pressure and promote your heart health. Paul Lutaakome, a nutritionist at Jinja Referral Hospital, says, “They are a nutritious snack because they contain a lot of magnesium, folic acid, protein and are a good source of fibre. Ensure you buy unsalted sunflower seeds to minimise your sodium intake.”

Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, which reduces blood pressure. They are more beneficial when eaten raw. However, because they are a versatile vegetable, they can also be incorporated into several meals as part of salads or into your cooking. However, do not overcook or deep fry them because their nutrient value diminishes with increased temperatures.

Watermelon contains an amino acid called L-citrulline which helps improve circulation and lowers systolic blood pressure. A drop in aortic systolic blood pressure is important in mitigating cardiovascular disease risk.

Carrots are high in potassium and beta-carotene which have a great impact in reducing high blood pressure. Carrot juice also helps maintain normal blood pressure by regulating heart and kidney functions.

Green vegetables
For example, spinach is low in calories, high in fibre and contains potassium, folate and magnesium. These are key ingredients for lowering and maintaining blood pressure levels. Celery contains phthalides that relax the muscle tissue in the artery walls, enabling increased blood flow and, in turn, lowering blood pressure.

“Bananas are rich in potassium which boosts kidney function, thereby helping them flush sodium out of the body. They also help in relaxing artery walls which boosts heart health,” says Lutaakome.

Tit bits
Other things you must be watchful about while keeping your pressure normal include;

Eat less salt because too much salt can cause a spike in blood pressure. A drop in sodium consumption may lead to a drop in your blood pressure.
Stress elevates your blood pressure and for those suffering from hypertension, stress can also cause some kind of cardiovascular damage. Sleep deprivation can also lead to hypertension and other health related problems.

“It is important that you exercise to stay fit and keep the pressure at a recommended level. Belly fat may trigger high blood pressure. Reduce your alcohol intake, quit smoking because nicotine is said to increase blood pressure,” says Dr Kwarisiima.