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How to Use the Dash Diet to Lower Blood Pressure

Updated on September 22, 2011
High Blood Pressure
High Blood Pressure | Source

You can achieve lower blood pressure using the DASH diet. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension or DASH diet is effective at reducing high blood pressure according to studies sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The DASH plan is easy to understand but can be a challenge to follow. But if you need to lower your blood pressure the DASH Diet is something you should do. It could help you to lose weight and lower your risk of getting other chronic diseases, too.

Start a Food Diary to Measure Your Eating Habits (Optional)

If you want to document your current food consumption you can use the food labels and other sources to count the calories, grams of fat, grams of saturated fat, grams of fiber, and milligrams of sodium (salt)consumed for each food and drink item at each meal. If you do this for a day or two you’ll probably be amazed at the daily totals you’ve been consuming and will derive motivation from it to lower your blood pressure with the DASH diet.

If this data collection effort is too much for you, then you can just start following the DASH diet.

Learn the Benefits of the DASH Diet

Research has shown that the DASH diet can quickly and effectively lower blood pressure. It is also a heart-healthy diet and, according to the Mayo Clinic, it offers some protection from diseases like cancer, stroke, diabetes and osteoporosis as well as heart disease. If you have high blood pressure only vegetarian and vegan diets might be better for you than the DASH diet, which is also a plant-based diet.

Consume More Fruits and Vegetables

The average American consumes only two or three servings combined of fruits and vegetables per day. On a 2,000 calorie DASH diet, you’ll need eight to ten servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables per day (4 or 5 servings of each per day). These supply the very important minerals of potassium and magnesium plus fiber.

Consume More Whole Grains

On a 2,000 calorie DASH diet you’ll need six to eight servings of grains a day. Your best strategy is to make them all whole grains so that you get more fiber and nutrients. Choose grain products that are labeled “100% whole grain” or “100% whole wheat.

Eat Only Fat-Free or Low-Fat Dairy

On a 2,000 calorie DASH diet you will need two or three servings a day of milk, yogurt, or cheese. All your dairy products should be fat free (skim) or low fat (1%). Dairy products are major sources of calcium and protein.

Include Nuts, Seeds, and Beans

On a 2,000 calorie DASH diet you should get four to five servings from this food group per week. These foods are rich in magnesium, potassium, protein, and fiber.

Limit Meat from Mammals

Using a 2,000 calorie DASH diet you should limit yourself to one or two daily three-ounce servings of fish, poultry, or lean meat. Try to favor fish and poultry from this food group, avoiding as much red meat as you can. One or two daily three ounce servings supply protein and magnesium.

Limit Fats, Oils and Sweets

With a 2,000 calorie DASH diet you can still have some sweets and fats, but they should be limited to two or three servings of fats and oils per day, and five or fewer sweets per week. Avoid trans fats completely, and eat fat-free or low fat snacks. Portion control is critical with sweets and snacks. Use fruits and vegetables for as many snacks as you can.

Go Low Sodium to Further Control Blood Pressure

The standard DASH diet restricts sodium to 2,400 mg of sodium/salt per day. But if your blood pressure is high then you should have no more than 1,500 mg of sodium/salt per day to lower your blood pressure.

Do Both Aerobic Exercise and Strength Training

In conjunction with the DASH diet you really need to be physically active to help lower and control your blood pressure. Getting fit is more important than losing weight, but if you follow the DASH diet and exercise you will both get fit and lose weight. Bite the bullet and start exercising. Walking every day is a great place to start.

Consult Reliable Sources for Further Information

There are a number of reliable sources that you can consult for additional information on the DASH diet and blood pressure. These include the American Heart Association, the Mayo Clinic, and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute which has a 64-page guide to “Lowering Your Blood Pressure with DASH.” This guide also contains recipes.

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