Dietary factors in the pathogenesis and treatment of hypertension

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Data accumulated from epidemiological observations, intervention trials and studies on experimental animals provide a growing body of evidence of the influence of various dietary components on blood pressure. Dietary sodium, usually taken in the form of sodium chloride (common salt), is positively associated with blood pressure, and in many hypertensive patients reduction in sodium intake lowers blood pressure. On the other hand, in certain patients potassium, calcium and magnesium may be protective electrolytes against hypertension. Dietary fats, especially n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, may also influence blood pressure, whereas the possible role of other macronutrients, such as proteins and carbohydrates, or vitamins in the regulation of blood pressure is less well understood. Occasional ingestion of coffee transiently increases blood pressure, but the effects of habitual coffee consumption are controversial. Excessive use of alcohol on a regular basis has been associated with elevated blood pressure. It has also been shown in case reports that large amounts of liquorice lead to the development of hypertension. Thus, with appropriate dietary modifications, it is possible to prevent the development of high blood pressure and to treat hypertensive patients with fewer drugs and with lower doses. In some patients antihypertensive medication may not be at all necessary.

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