Nutrition

What You Need To Know About Dash Diet For High Blood Pressure

If you haven’t heard of the Dash Diet (Low Sodium) Eating meal plan before, this article will help explain the health benefits, especially if you suffer from high blood pressure. When first diagnosed with hypertension, high blood pressure, you might seek a diet to lower your numbers and decrease your risk factor.

Dash Diet: High Blood Pressure and the Benefits of This Healthy Low Sodium Diet

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is called the “silent epidemic.” That’s because so many people have it. But because it rarely shows any warning signs or symptoms, it’s easy to miss if you’re not looking for it.

Woman holding a plush heart in hand for heart health and high blood pressure.

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), almost half of adults in the US have hypertension, and most don’t have it under control. In 2019, this resulted in over half a million deaths. High blood pressure can be dangerous, because it increases your risk for a heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, and blindness. This is why regular blood pressure screening and incorporating a healthy diet and lifestyle are so important. This post will show you how.

The foods you eat affect so many aspects of your health, and it’s never too late to start enjoying a more “heart-healthy” diet. In fact, there is one diet that’s been specially designed to help with high blood pressure. That’s called the DASH diet: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. And research says a low sodium diet works.

[Disclaimer: If your doctor recommends medication to help you control your blood pressure, be sure to take it as directed and go for routine monitoring or testing as required.]

Blood Pressure & Health of Your Heart

Blood pressure is how much pressure your heart needs to use to keep blood flowing through your vessels. You can think of it as water flowing through a flexible tube versus flowing through a stiff, hard, narrow pipe. Imagine the pressure you would need to push the water through the hose versus the pipe. That’s how blood pressure works. The more force that’s needed, the more pressure it puts on your vessels, and the more damage it can do to the pump and the vessels. This is especially true when high blood pressure persists over many years.

Blood pressure cuff to help reduce risk of high blood pressure with the Dash diet meal plan.

What is Healthy Blood Pressure?

A normal blood pressure reading is 120/80 mm Hg. The first number (in this case, 120 mm Hg) is the systolic pressure in your vessels as your heart beats. The second number (in this case, 80 mm Hg) is the diastolic pressure in your vessels between beats. If your blood pressure is slightly higher than these numbers, that’s considered “elevated.” However, if your blood pressure gets above 130/80 mm Hg, you may be diagnosed with hypertension.

Hypertension – High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure usually develops over many years. It can happen due to diabetes or obesity, or not getting enough physical activity. It can also sometimes happen during pregnancy.

The good news is that there are ways to manage hypertension, and lower your risk for heart disease (angina, heart attack, heart failure), stroke, kidney disease, and vision loss.

DASH DIET- DIETARY APPROACHES TO STOP HYPERTENSION

Lower blood pressure with the dash diet meal plan.

Healthy Lifestyle for Healthy Blood Pressure

There are several healthy lifestyle habits that can lower your risk for high blood pressure. The first is not smoke, because smoking is associated with many issues, including heart issues.

Another lifestyle habit for decreased risk of hypertension (and your overall health) is to get at least 150 minutes of physical activity every week. That can be done with as little as 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week.

Managing stress positively is another strategy to help maintain healthy blood pressure. 

Sodium and Healthy Blood Pressure

Your nutrition affects your blood pressure. There are several nutrients that can increase or decrease your blood pressure, depending on how much you consume. The nutrients associated with lower blood pressure include the minerals potassium, magnesium, and calcium, along with fiber and protein. The most [infamous/famous] nutrient linked to increased risk of hypertension is sodium. 

According to the American Heart Association, the more sodium you consume, the higher your risk of hypertension. Sodium is one part of the salt compound, sodium chloride. One of the biggest sources of sodium in the diet is not from your kitchen salt shaker, but the sodium hidden in processed and packaged foods. 

A recent study enrolled 20,995 participants with a history of stroke or hypertension to see if using a lower-sodium salt substitute would reduce their risk of stroke, heart incidents, and death. Half of the participants continued to use regular salt over several years, while half agreed to use the salt substitute (75% sodium chloride and 25% potassium chloride). After almost most five years, the participants who consumed the lower-sodium salt had fewer strokes, heart incidents, and deaths. 12-14% reduced their risks, which is substantial when there are millions of people at high risk from hypertension.

What is the Dash Diet Meal Plan?

The DASH diet meal plan was designed to help reduce blood pressure. In addition, the diet can help lose weight and improve metabolic measures. When the DASH diet is followed, along with exercise and caloric restriction, people improve their blood pressure even more; lowering it by 16 mm Hg systolic and 9mmHg diastolic; plus, they lose some weight. People who follow the DASH diet may have a reduced need for medication to control their hypertension. Discussing changes to your diet with your health care professional is important before making any dietary changes.

Salmon and veggies a diet in order to reduce risk of hypertension.

The DASH diet Meal Plan approach to stop hypertension (High Blood pressure)!

There is a dietary meal plan pattern and food recommendations specifically for hypertension called the DASH diet. U.S. News has deemed the DASH diet one of the best diets. It is among the top diets in the categories of heart-healthy, healthy eating, diabetes, easy-to-follow, and overall diets. Harvard Health also rated the DASH diet and says, “research supports the use of the DASH diet as a healthy eating pattern that may help lower blood pressure, and prevent or reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, kidney disease, and gout.” Some studies show that the blood pressure-lowering effect of the DASH diet can be similar to people taking medication [for stage 1 hypertension].

Simple Diet for High Blood Pressure

The DASH diet meal plan, to decrease hypertension, high blood pressure, is full of heart-healthy foods with blood-pressure-lowering nutrients. The recommendations for a 2,000 calorie per day intake include:

DASH DIET PLAN FOR HEALTH

  • whole grains (6-8 servings/day)
  • fruits (4-5 servings/day)
  • vegetables (4-5 servings/day)
  • low-fat dairy (2-3 servings/day)
  • meat, poultry, or fish (no more than two 3 oz servings/day)
  • fats and oils (2-3 servings/day)
  • nuts, seeds, or beans (4-5 servings/week)
  • sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages (no more than 5 servings/week)

The DASH diet limits very few foods and nutrients, such as sodium, saturated and trans fats, red meat, and sweets (including sugar-sweetened beverages).

Dash Diet & Health Benefits

As mentioned, the health benefits of eating a DASH diet, especially in lowering hypertension, are vast and include many of the most common diseases impacting adults.

One thing to remember when transitioning to a higher-fiber diet with more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables is to do this slowly, to reduce your risk of gas and bloating. This can easily be accomplished by increasing these plant-based foods by one or two per week until you’re eating the recommended amounts.

Lower blood pressure naturally with a bowl of oatmeal, bananas, and blueberries.

What Are the Benefits of Heart-Healthy Eating?

Heart-healthy eating, which includes foods like vegetables, whole grains and antioxidant rich fruits, can help prevent heart disease, stroke, and reduce the risk of developing some types of cancer. Eating a heart-healthy diet is also important for managing your hypertension.

Lower Blood Pressure Natually With the Low Sodium Dash Diet

If you have hypertension, or simply want to start a healthier diet to reduce your risk for a host of diseases, then the DASH diet may be for you. The DASH diet is rich in foods that are highly nutritious and can help you enjoy a longer life free of stroke, heart disease, kidney disease, blindness, diabetes, and gout.

The DASH diet is considered one of the easiest diets to follow, and includes simple nutritional improvements, like enjoying more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Worried about hypertension? Interested in how to best implement the dietary and lifestyle habits to reduce your risk of heart issues and other diseases? Want help creating a doable plan so that you can live your longest, healthiest life? Join my Complete Wellness program today.

Consider my heart healthy smoothie made with beets to help improve blood flow to your heart.

Have You Tried the Dash Diet Plan to Lower Risk of Hypertension?

Could you be part of the “silent epidemic”? Have you tried simple—yet effective—nutrition and lifestyle strategies you can enjoy to reduce your risk and live your healthiest life? Let’s discuss this low sodium diet topic in the comment section below.

You can also connect with me @Eat_Your_Nutrition on Instagram. I love seeing your photos. #EatYourNutrition #LauraVillanueva

Why potassium is important for blood pressure.
Potassium is an important component of your diet, because it can lessen the effect of sodium on blood pressure.
List of high potassium foods to help maintain healthy blood pressure.
List of high potassium foods like spinach, lentils, and prunes on the dash diet meal plan.
List of high potassium foods like raisins, beans, and oranges to naturally lower blood pressure.

REFERENCES:

  1. American Heart Association. (2016, October 31). Managing high blood pressure with a heart-healthy diet. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/changes-you-can-make-to-manage-high-blood-pressure/managing-blood-pressure-with-a-heart-healthy-diet
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, May 18). High Blood Pressure Symptoms and Causes. https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/about.htm
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, September 27). High blood pressure: Facts about hypertension.https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/facts.htm
  4. Harvard Public Health. (n.d.). Diet review: DASH. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-weight/diet-reviews/dash-diet/
  5. Mandrola, J. M. and Neal, B. (2021). Will the Positive Findings From the SSaSS Trial on Salt Substitution Silence the Salt Skeptics? Medscape. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/957510#vp_1
  6. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (n.d.). DASH Eating plan. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/dash-eating-plan
  7. Neal, B., Wu, Y., Feng, X., Zhang, R., Zhang, Y., Shi, J., Zhang, J., Tian, M., Huang, L., Li, Z., Yu, Y., Zhao, Y., Zhou, B., Sun, J., Liu, Y., Yin, X., Hao, Z., Yu, J., Li, K. C., Zhang, X., … Elliott, P. (2021). Effect of Salt Substitution on Cardiovascular Events and Death. The New England journal of medicine, 385(12), 1067–1077. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMoa2105675 https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMoa2105675
  8. U.S. News. (n.d.). Best diets 2021. https://health.usnews.com/best-diet
  9. U.S. News. (n.d.). DASH diet. https://health.usnews.com/best-diet/dash-diet

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Certified holistic nutritionist, nutrition and wellness author, weight and gut health specialist. I teach women how to discover effective ways to become the healthiest version of themselves.

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