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DASH Diet to Lower Blood Pressure

An eating plan rich in fruits, veggies and whole grains can help control hypertension.

By Ginny Greene, Contributing Editor

Are you one of the millions of Americans with high blood pressure? If so, you may think that managing your condition means a life of boring foods and rigid self-discipline. Not so! You can have delicious meals and snacks that can help lower your blood pressure.

As a result of research by the nation’s top scientists, one of the diet plans recommended for lowering blood pressure is called DASH. This is short for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. DASH focuses on adding tasty, nutrient-rich foods like fruits and vegetables.

DASH isn't just for people with high blood pressure. It's a healthy, wholesome, high-fiber eating plan than can also help improve cholesterol levels. All of these healthy changes may help lower your risk for cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions.

So what IS the DASH eating plan?
DASH emphasizes healthy foods you can find at grocery or big-box stores. How much you should eat depends on how many calories you need each day. This amount is influenced by your age, gender and level of activity.

Eat fruits, veggies and more
DASH focuses on vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy products. It’s also high in whole grains, poultry, seafood (especially fatty fish) and nuts. It’s low in red and processed meats, trans and saturated fats, sweets and sugary drinks.

Consume less sodium
Sodium (salt) intake is known to contribute to high blood pressure. Adults who would benefit from lower blood pressure should take in no more than 2,400 mg per day of dietary sodium. Even more benefits can be seen when sodium is limited to 1,500 milligrams a day.

Most Americans consume far more sodium than that, mostly from processed foods and eating out. If your current diet has lots of sodium, start by cutting it by at least 1,000 mg a day. That can help bring your blood pressure down as you work toward more desirable levels. Check the sodium content on Nutrition Facts labels and on restaurant menus. Choose foods lower in sodium.

Take your medications as prescribed
If you take medicines to control high blood pressure, don’t stop taking them. But tell your doctor that you're following the DASH eating plan. Together, you can check on progress in your blood pressure as you make healthier food choices.

Sources:

U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dietary guidelines for Americans, 2010. Accessed: August 8, 2015.
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. What is the DASH eating plan? Accessed: August 8, 2015.

Updated April 26, 2015