Let’s Get to Know the DASH Diet: Food Choices to Lower Your Blood Pressure
As people age, they are naturally at an increased risk for higher blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Hypertension is often referred to as the silent killer because it shows no signs but puts people who suffer from it at an increased risk of stroke, heart disease, kidney disease and other, often serious health problems.
The good news is, there are many different ways to manage blood pressure, which is why people should always speak with their Doctor or APRN about their blood pressure, and if prescribed a blood pressure medication, should always take their medication as directed. However, in addition to medication, there are lifestyle changes people can make including regular physical activity, no smoking, limiting alcohol and eating a healthy diet. In fact, diet plays such a large part in maintaining a healthy blood pressure that there is an entire diet named for it: the DASH diet.
What is the DASH Diet?
DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension and it was developed by the National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute. DASH is intended to lower blood pressure and help manage hypertension by reducing sodium intake and increasing fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole-grain intake. In addition to focusing on consuming more fruits and vegetables and less red meat, DASH also emphasizes the importance of food portions. Despite being called the DASH Diet, it is not a short-term solution but rather a lifestyle change.
Eating on DASH
Eating on the DASH diet does not have to be difficult, but it does require some planning and long term adjustments. When eating DASH, the following servings are recommended:
- 6 to 8 servings of grain a day
- 4 to 5 servings of vegetables a day
- 2 to 3 fat-free or low-fat dairy products a day
- Six 1-ounce serving or less a day of lean meats, poultry or fish
- 4 to 5 servings of legumes, nuts or seeds a week
- 2 to 3 servings of fats and oils a day
- 5 servings or fewer of sugar and added sweets a week
To learn more about what a serving size looks like, check out this helpful chart.
Sticking with DASH
Making any new lifestyle changes can be difficult. The most important thing when making changes is to start slowly. Someone who often eats fast food will have a much harder time adjusting to cooking every night than if they start by planning to cook one night a week. Similarly, a person who loves hamburgers and steaks can start by swapping out one meal of red meat a week for poultry. Small changes add up over time. Remember, eating a DASH diet is a lifestyle change. Keep trying to incorporate healthy meals and do not get discouraged at slip-ups or set-backs.
Ready to give the DASH Diet a try? Check out the links below for some delicious and nutritious DASH recipes.
EatingWell 7-Day DASH Diet Meal Plan
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: A Week With the DASH Eating Plan
Mayo Clinic: High Blood Pressure
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