From: Kay Jones Lewis
If your blood pressure is elevated most of the time, you’re at greater risk for developing health conditions that could become life threatening. Thirty-three percent of Americans have hypertension (blood pressure higher than 140/90 mmHg) and another twenty-eight percent have prehypertension (blood pressure between 120/80 and 139/89 mmHg). Those with prehypertension are likely to develop hypertension unless they take steps to prevent it.
Your blood pressure will vary throughout the day, lowering when you are asleep and increasing when you are awake. It also can go up when you’re anxious, excited or physically active. If your numbers remain above normal, causing your heart to work too hard most of the time, that can lead to heart and kidney disease, stroke and blindness. In 2007, hypertension was the primary or contributing cause of 336,353 deaths.
Fortunately, hypertension can be prevented and controlled with lifestyle changes. Medical research funded by the National Institutes of Health found substantial evidence that healthy diet and exercise habits are key. The results of these studies are the basis for a highly acclaimed eating plan called DASH, “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.” Here are the basic guidelines:
Reduce consumption of saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and total fat. While you still need some fat in your diet, saturated fat and trans fat can raise your blood cholesterol and increase your risk for heart disease, diabetes and obesity. The DASH diet recommends that you consume 2 to 3 servings a day of healthier unsaturated fats; and it limits intake of unhealthier fats found in meat, butter, cheese, whole milk, cream, eggs and foods made with lard, solid shortenings, palm and coconut oil.
Eat more fruits and vegetables. The DASH diet recommends eating 4 to 5 servings of vegetables and 4 to 5 servings of fruits each day. In addition to eating veggies as a side dish, think of ways to use them as replacements for some or all of the meat in your favorite recipes. Then, enjoy a piece of fruit as a snack or as dessert after each meal.
Consume fat-free or low-fat dairy products. A recent Swedish study of nearly 75,000 people found those who made a habit of drinking low-fat milk and eating low-fat yogurt and cheese had a 12 percent lower risk for stroke than those who consumed full-fat dairy products. Researchers believe these results are due to the presence of calcium, potassium, magnesium and Vitamin D as well as the reduced fat. The DASH diet includes 2-3 servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy, but recommends that you go easy on the cheeses, since they typically are high in sodium.
Include whole grains, which have more fiber and nutrients than refined grains. Whole-grain breads, cereals and rice are naturally low in fat, so try not to load them up with fatty spreads and sauces. The DASH diet recommends 6 to 8 servings daily.
Add 4 to 5 small servings of nuts, seeds and legumes to your diet each week. These foods are recommended weekly and in small quantities since they tend to be higher in calories and some, like nuts, are higher in fat. But they contain monounsaturated fat and omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for you when consumed in moderation. These foods are also great sources of magnesium, potassium and protein. Those derived from soybeans (tofu and tempeh, for example) are good meat replacements.
Cut back on the quantity of red meat in your diet and opt more often for poultry and fish. Trim all fat and skin from meat and broil, bake, grill, roast or poach instead of frying. The DASH diet recommends eating 6 or fewer servings of animal protein a day. A serving equals 1 ounce of cooked skinless poultry, seafood or lean meat or 1 egg.
Limit sweets, added sugars and sugary beverages to 5 or fewer low-fat servings a week. A serving equals 1 tablespoon of sugar or jelly, ½ cup sorbet or 1 8-ounce cup of lemonade.
Control your intake of salt (sodium). A high-salt diet increases your risk for high blood pressure. Most people eat more than double the recommended amount of salt. About 77% of this salt comes from processed and restaurant foods. Current dietary guidelines recommend consuming no more than 2,300 mg of salt per day as well as eating potassium-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables. People in the following groups should consume no more than 1,500 mg of salt per day and meet the potassium recommendation (4,700 mg/day) with food: 51 years of age or older; African Americans; those with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.
In addition to following DASH:
Besides lowering your blood pressure, the DASH diet can help you shed unwanted pounds by encouraging you to eat healthier meals and snacks. Regardless of your reason for considering the DASH diet, talk with your primary care physician for guidance on the appropriate calorie consumption and serving sizes.
For additional details, visit: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/hbp/dash/new_dash.pdf