Definition and Overview
A high blood pressure (hypertension) diet consultation is an appointment with a dietitian or nutritionist following a referral from general doctors or specialists such as cardiologists and nephrologists. The objective of the diet is to reduce, prevent, or reverse the condition’s effect on a person’s health.
The heart, a hollow muscular organ, pumps blood from the left atrium to the aorta. The blood then travels through the arteries and capillaries before it is distributed to all cells and tissues in the body to fulfill their metabolic functions. After the oxygen and nutrients are removed from the blood, the blood carries the carbon dioxide and the cells’ by-products to be expelled by the body in different ways.
The blood moves through the arteries, which are composed of strong walls. The pressure in which they flow within these paths is referred to as blood pressure. Blood pressure can be high in certain cases such as when a person has just completed a strenuous activity, but if it’s consistently high, it can be a sign of an underlying condition. It can also have detrimental effects on the body including but not limited to cardiovascular disease, stroke and aneurysm, or damage to the kidneys.
Blood pressure can be controlled in many ways including medication. However, studies have shown that maintaining a diet that promotes a healthy blood pressure is ideal. In fact, it may wean the patient off their medication.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
A high blood pressure diet consultation may be recommended for:
People with kidney disease – High blood pressure can cause damage to the arteries, and the kidneys have several of these arteries. Thus, hypertension can significantly reduce the performance and function of the kidneys.
Those who meet certain risk factors – Hypertension can begin without any symptoms, but certain risks may indicate the patient has or is prone to developing the condition. These include those who are obese, diabetic, have heart disease, sedentary lifestyle, high-sodium diet, had a stroke, pregnant women, or older people.
Individuals diagnosed with hypertension
Those with pre-hypertension – A person may be at risk of hypertension if his or her blood pressure borders hypertension (110/80).
How Does the Procedure Work?
A high blood pressure diet consultation follows after a recommendation or referral from any of the doctors who specialize in hypertension. These can include the patient’s general doctor, a cardiologist, or a nephrologist (who specializes in kidney problems). A gynaecologist may also suggest it as pregnant women can be prone to high blood pressure, as well as endocrinologist since hormones can play a huge role in blood flow force and increased risks such as obesity.
The consultation is conducted by a dietitian or nutritionist whose tasks include:
- Review the patient’s medical records, including the cause or trigger of hypertension
- Review the patient’s family history of hypertension and other related conditions
- Analyze the current lifestyle and health of the patient (e.g., diet, level of physical activity, smoking, etc.)
- Create a customized plan, taking into consideration access to food, affordability, other existing health conditions, age of the patient and medications taken, among others
- Adjust the plan accordingly (this is accomplished in the succeeding follow-up)
- Teach the patient on how to follow the recommended diet
- Coordinate with the doctors such as whether medication doses can be reduced or eliminated completely
- Counsel the patient on how to maintain the diet and avoid other possible causes or triggers of hypertension
The consultation may last for at least 30 minutes to an hour. In between, tests such as blood pressure readings may be performed for proper and accurate monitoring. If necessary, the dietitian or the nutritionist may refer the patient to other specialists.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Heart Association (AHA) recommend the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet for people with or at risk of hypertension. It promotes weight loss, prevention of kidney stone formation with low sodium intake and low blood pressure with an emphasis on consumption of fruits, vegetables and healthy fats.
Possible Risks and Complications
DASH still has to be modified according to different factors such as the actual need of the patient.
Victor RG. Systemic hypertension: Mechanisms and diagnosis. In: Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, et al, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 43.
Victor RG, Libby P. Systemic Hypertension: Management. In: Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, et al, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 44.