Maintaining a Healthy High Blood Pressure Diet
I read an article a few years ago that stated roughly 1 billion people worldwide have high blood pressure, and over half a billion more will harbor this silent killer by 2025. This didn't surprise me too much, as I am one of the almost 1 billion who have high blood pressure (HBP).
I had a frank discussion with my doctor when I was diagnosed. I’ve never had a weight problem, I've always exercised, ate pretty well and, quite frankly, never thought this could happen to me, especially not in my 40s. But it did, thanks to my genetic makeup.
I would implore you, if you don’t already, to have your blood pressure checked regularly. High blood pressure (HBP) is called the “silent killer” for a reason: there are no symptoms.
Understanding the Dangers of High Blood Pressure
HBP is a condition that’s pretty easy to control using common sense, some diet modifications and, if your doctor feels you need it, medication. If you’ve been diagnosed – or even if you haven’t, but want to start eating healthier – start tracking what you eat. By changing just a few things and creating some new and yummy food habits, you could possibly lower your blood pressure and reduce the amount of medication you’re on. Implementing a high blood pressure diet is easier than you might think.
Start by writing down what – and how much – you eat. Most people, myself included, are not aware of how much they consume each day. Tracking can be a real eye-opener – it was for me. I was surprised mostly by what I was eating, not how much – although the how much kept creeping in too!
Keeping a journal of what I was eating, including portion sizes, let me know the truth about what was going into my body. It's also very helpful to have in case you need to speak with a doctor, because then you have a record of what your diet looks like. This can make it easier for your doctor or healthcare professional to analyze your lifestyle, and make recommendations on lifestyle changes.
It only took a few days for me to realize I needed to make some changes.
The DASH Diet
My research led me to the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. At that time, the effects of the diet on HBP were still being studied, but it sounded good, so with my doctor’s blessing I decided to try it, and I’m still on it today.
The results of the DASH trial proved that changing the way people with HBP eat positively affects their blood pressure levels. And that’s exactly what it did for me. I’m not completely off of blood pressure medication, but the amount I take now is less than it was before, and my blood pressure has remained within normal ranges for years.
One of the principal objectives of the DASH diet is to get people to lower their sodium intake. It’s been proven over and over again that a diet high in sodium increases blood pressure in many people.
The DASH diet’s eating plan includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, poultry, nuts, legumes and low-fat dairy. It’s low in saturated fat, total fat and cholesterol and high in nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, fiber and protein.
Here’s a brief glimpse of one’s daily intake on the diet:
- 6 to 8 daily servings of grains
- 4 to 5 servings of vegetables
- 4 to 5 servings of fruits
- 2 to 3 servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy products
- Up to 6 servings of fish, poultry or lean meat
- 4 to 5 servings of nuts, seeds and legumes.
- 2 to 3 servings of fats and oils
- Up to 5 servings per week of sweets
- Alcohol - 2 drinks for men and 1 drink for women per day
The best thing to do, before you start this or any other diet is to ask your doctor to tell you how many calories you should be eating each day in order to meet your goals. You should also review the DASH diet, or any dietary change, with your doctor or healthcare provider to make sure that it will be a healthy choice for you.
Some people still need to take medication while following a DASH diet. Again, be sure to talk to your doctor. They will be able to adjust your dosage as needed, and ensure that you are remaining healthy and in stable condition. Making any major changes on your own can negatively affect your health, so if you're unsure about something, be sure to ask.
There are lots of delicious and easy DASH diet recipes available for free online, so no excuses!