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9.22.2015

Lowering your blood pressure with the DASH diet

Are you looking for ways to help manage your blood pressure? If so, you may be interested in the DASH diet. The DASH diet, or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, is an eating plan created to help lower blood pressure. Combining the principles of the DASH diet, lowering your sodium and staying active may prevent the development of, and reduce existing, high blood pressure.

The DASH diet

Following the DASH diet does not require extra or special foods. It simply requires making better food choices by limiting saturated fat and sodium, as well as eating nutrient-rich foods to help lower blood pressure. The DASH diet provides guidelines on how to make these changes to your eating patterns. These guidelines include:

  • Grains: Aim for 6 to 8 servings per day, while making half of them whole grains.
  • Fruit: Strive for 4 to 5 servings per day.
  • Vegetables: Try to eat 4 to 5 servings per day.
  • Low-fat or non-fat dairy: Ensure you consume 2 to 3 servings per day.
  • Lean meats, poultry and fish: Keep animal-based proteins down to 1.5 to 2.5 servings per day.
  • Nuts, seeds, legumes and oils: Get heart-healthy fats by having 3 to 5 servings per week.

Try these shopping ideas for the DASH diet!

  • Plan your meals. This is by far the most effective way to ensure healthy eating. Decide what meals you’re going to make for the week, keeping in mind the suggestions of the DASH diet.
  • Write a list before you go shopping so you know exactly what you need to purchase.
  • Eat before you shop to avoid impulse buys.
  • Stick to the perimeter of the store as much as you can, where fresh foods are in abundance. Fresh foods that are not processed tend to be lower in fat and sodium.
  • Always read labels. If you do need to enter the center of the store, always read the labels of the foods you’re purchasing to make wise decisions. Choose foods that are low in fat and sodium. A food is considered low sodium if it contains less than 5 percent of your daily value of sodium per serving.

Sodium

Eating a diet low in sodium is a key component to maintaining a healthy blood pressure. Too much sodium is detrimental for your health as it can increase your blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends consuming less than 2,400 mg per day, which is the equivalent to 1 teaspoon of table salt. If you have high blood pressure, it is recommended to reduce your sodium to 1,500 mg per day. Most people consume more sodium during the day than they need.

Follow these tips to help lower your sodium intake!

  • Read food labels. Check to see how much sodium is in the foods you purchase.
  • Flavor with other seasonings. Try different types of spices in various combinations to enhance the flavor of foods without salt.
  • Keep the salt off the table. Avoid using table salt. Each shake of the shaker adds more salt to your daily intake.

Stay Active

Physical activity has so many benefits, including improving heart health through weight management, reducing blood pressure, and improving cholesterol. It is recommended that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week. Staying active doesn’t necessary mean formal exercise, although it is certainly beneficial; yard work, cleaning and various other chores can count, too. Additionally, reducing sedentary behavior to avoid prolonged sitting is necessary to be active, even if you are exercising regularly.

Try some of these suggestions for staying active!

  • Talk to your doctor before starting exercise, especially if you’re already been diagnosed with high blood pressure.
  • Consider your options and determine exercises that would be best for you. Running, walking, jogging, bike riding, swimming—there are so many options!
  • Every little bit counts for physical activity, so don’t feel discouraged if you’re not able to do as much as you would like at first.
  • Break your exercise up during the day. If you’re unable to commit to one set time, try exercising in 10-minute increments.
  • Schedule your exercise and treat it as an appointment to help with follow-through.

For Health Advocate Members

If you’re a Health Advocate member with our Wellness Coaching program, call us today to connect with a Wellness Coach for more nutrition and fitness tips.