Healthy Living

Hypertension is a condition that affects more than one in five people Canadian Blood Services does accept blood donors who have hypertension if they are being treated with anti-hypertensives, diuretics, or are on a salt-restricted diet. Their blood pressure must fall within acceptable guidelines (e.g., systolic pressure between 90 mm Hg* and 180 mm Hg and diastolic pressure between 50 mm Hg and 100 mm Hg), provided they meet all other eligible criteria.

We recently spoke with Beth Mansfield, a registered dietician and exercise physiologist with Peak Performance in Ottawa, for tips on what people can do to either prevent or treat hypertension.

How rampant is hypertension in the Canadian population?

Hypertension affects more than one in five people, however some people with elevated blood pressure are not aware of their condition, so the true prevalence is likely much higher.

Is there a certain age where people need to start looking at their diet and thinking about ways to prevent this condition?

Blood pressure goes up with overweight/obesity, lack of physical activity, salt and alcohol intake. And all of these tend to track along with age but the bottom line is that we all need to get moving, eat smart and shape up from childhood through adulthood and into our senior years.

In terms of diet, is it best to follow a salt-restricted diet to prevent hypertension?

From a diet perspective, most of us need to look at ways to eat less packaged/processed foods and eat more vegetables and fruits. This will help to decrease sodium intakes. We also need to eat less, more often as a way to shrink our expanding waistlines, so eating smaller snacks and meals is a key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight and a healthy blood pressure.

Is hypertension the same thing as high blood pressure?


Do you have any recipes you would recommend or meal plans that would support a diet to treat hypertension?

A plant based diet such as the Mediterranean or DASH diet. Recipes are available here: or

Both and allow you to customize your meal plans and they follow Canadian dietary recommendations for men, women and children.

Can you tell me more about the DASH diet?

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The DASH diet helps to lower blood pressure by providing more key nutrients, such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium, all of which are associated with lower blood pressure. These key nutrients are boosted by an eating plan rich in fruits and vegetables, and low-fat or non-fat dairy, with whole grains.

What are some realistic ways to incorporate more activity into one’s lifestyle?

The best physical activity is the one that you like to do and will do—so get moving, any way! I like to use my bicycling commute
into work as a way to get active “on the way.” For others, a dog can be the best exercise machine with fur!

Is it a good idea to limit the amount of alcohol in your diet as well?

Yes – alcohol increases blood pressure and it is a source of extra calories that tend to get deposited right around the abdomen, further increasing risks of elevated blood pressure.

Do you have any other general health tips for our readers in order to help them enjoy a healthy lifestyle?

  • Fuel your active lifestyle!
    Whole grains and legumes, fruits and vegetables are all chock full of carbohydrate and fiber – these are your best energy foods to keep you performing at your peak.
  • Spice up your life!
    Think variety in your food choices – include a wide range of brightly colored fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes in your diet. They add lots of taste as well as adding in your best anti-oxidant cocktail mix.
  • Explore new foods and new flavours!
    Be willing to explore the different grains in the different ethnic cuisines – rice (brown, basmati, jasmine), couscous, barley, millet, sorghum, oats, quinoa, spelt and amaranth are part of many different ethnic dishes. There are a huge variety of vegetables and fruits that add a burst of flavour to your own traditional recipes – dare to try a new one each week. Be adventurous!