Essential hypertension is a very common medical condition. It is known as a “silent killer” as it may not produce any symptoms in initial stages but still increases risk of complications (such as myocardial infarction, stroke, retinopathy, chronic kidney disease, etc) on a longer run. In most of the patients with essential hypertension, the exact cause remains unknown, however, some of the known predisposing factors can be identified.
As per modern medicine, salt restriction (no more than 6 g of sodium chloride per day) and taking adequate amounts of potassium, calcium, and magnesium are important dietary measures. Weight reduction should be considered by those who are obese. Smoking cessation and alcohol moderation are additional potentially beneficial measures.
Ayurveda is an ancient traditional medicine system of India which applied a holistic approach towards health and diseases. As per Ayurveda, 3 doshas (forces) – Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, govern human physiology. Each person has a unique constitution, which can be analyzed by his/her bodily characteristics and mental attitudes. Health is characterized by a balance between the three doshas and an illness is caused by a lack of balance among them. When a balance among them is restored, a person regains the lost health.
Hence before suggesting diet as per Ayurveda, it is essential to know constitution of the person. However, in general, imbalance of vata dosha is considered most important for increasing blood pressure. Hence diet that pacifies vata dosha imbalance should be suggested.
Regularity in diet is very important. Patients should maintain regular schedule of taking meals and snacks. Both overeating and fasting should be avoided. While eating, food should be chewed slowly and adequately. Worries and anger should be avoided at time of eating. In general, warm and well cooked food is better to balance vata dosha than cold and raw foods. In addition to diet changes, life-style changes such as regularity in work schedule and sleep, regular meditation and relaxation activities, etc are also important to pacify vata dosha.
Certain foods such as onion, garlic, coriander, ginger, cardamom, olives, carrot, banana, tea, spinach, celery, tomato, etc are believed to be helpful in controlling blood pressure.However, it is difficult to recommend their exact quantities (like dose of a medicine). Moderation and one’s own insight should be followed.
In Ayurveda, certain herbs are also claimed to be useful to control blood pressure, e.g., arjuna (terminalia arjuna), sarpagandha (rauwolfia serpentina), punarnava (boerhaavia diffusa), ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), saffron (crocus sativus), chrysanthemum (chrysanthemum morifolium), Hawthorn’s berry (crataegus laevigata), etc. However, they should be ideally consumed only if suggested by an Ayurveda expert.
Science & Research
In a recent study conducted in Nepal, the researchers asked 28 subjects with mild hypertension to consume two ripened bananas daily for 20 days. After 20 days, they found significant reduction in both systolic and diastolic blood pressures. It is well known that banana is rich in potassium, which is good for hypertensive patients. Banana also has other minerals, anti-oxidants, and certain phytochemicals that are beneficial for health. Further research will help to know more about beneficial role of bananas in hypertension.