There is a 90-percent chance that a middle-aged American will develop high blood pressure during their lives. However, research has shown that following the DASH diet plan will decrease blood pressure in as little as two weeks.
The DASH diet includes foods low in saturated fat, cholesterol and total fat and emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and fat-free milk and milk products. The plan also recommends a healthy amount of whole grain foods, fish, poultry and nuts.
For the fifth year running, the DASH diet was chosen as the Best Diet, Healthiest Diet, and the Best Diet for Diabetes by the expert panel from US News and World Report. Although the diet was developed to fight high blood pressure, it also has been shown to: help control diabetes, support overall heart health, and help with weight loss. It also gets high marks for safety, all while offering excellent nutrition.
“The first line of defense for high blood pressure, both before and after it is diagnosed, is making lifestyle changes. Changes that have a positive impact on blood pressure are not smoking, limiting alcohol, limiting stress, maintaining a healthy weight, reducing sodium in the diet, adopting the DASH eating plan, and being physically active,” said Dr. Pam Duitsman, nutrition and health specialist with University of Missouri Extension.
Overweight persons have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure. Losing weight can help decrease systolic (top number) blood pressure.
DASH is short for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.” The DASH eating plan is a diet that is abundant in fruits and vegetables, includes low-fat dairy products, and is low in saturated fat and total fat. The DASH plan helps to lower systolic blood pressure quickly. Some people see a difference in as little as two weeks.
Eating too much sodium or salt can also contribute to high blood pressure. Sodium impacts blood pressure when the kidneys fail to get rid of the extra sodium. According to a 2013 Institute of Medicine report, the average American consumes about 3,400 milligrams of salt daily.
Yet, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee issued recommendations earlier this year stating that the general population should limit dietary sodium to less than 2,300 mg per day (approximately one teaspoon).
“The problem is that the salt shaker is not the only place to find sodium. Canned and processed frozen foods can be especially high,” Duitsman said.
A DASH plan booklet is available online at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/heart/hbp_low.pdf
For more information on nutrition contact Dr. Pam Duitsman in Greene County at 881-8909, Mary Sebade in Dallas County at 345-7551, or the regional office of the Family Nutrition Education Program at 886-2059. Information is also available online http://extension.missouri.edu.