Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, referred to as the DASH diet, is a flexible dietary plan designed to help prevent and control hypertension. Heavily supported by the United States National Heart, Lunch and Blood Institute, the DASH diet promotes a healthy, balanced diet that includes:
- Limiting overall fat, saturated fat and cholesterol.
- Limits sodium and added sugars (included sugary beverages and sweet).
- Focus on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy foods that are low in fat, as well as meats (exception of red meat), poultry, fish, beans, & nuts, seeds
- Limits the intake of foods with added sugars, as well as sugar beverages.
Focusing on vital nutrients through daily food intake, the DASH diet includes foods that are appealing to most anyone and creates a diet that is balanced and easy to follow while lowering blood pressure or maintaining a healthy blood pressure and weight.
What is high blood pressure and who does it affect?
Your blood pressure, in simple terms, is forced blood pushing through the artery walls as your heart pumps out blood. It is a normal occurrence for blood pressure to reach highs and lows during the stable, but should remain steady for overall health. If you blood pressure remains high, it can affect your health. This is a result of your blood pressure continuing to be high causing the heart to overwork itself.
High blood pressure, also referred to as hypertension is said to be high if it reaches 140/90 or above. If it sustains above this level, it can cause damage to your organs (heart, kidneys, brain, eyes) and your blood vessels as well. Damage to these organs can lead to heart failure, heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, and vision loss.
Who should follow the DASH diet?
The DASH diet is promoted as a diet to focus on heart health and preventable diseases. It can be followed by anyone to promote overall health, but its main target includes those who can benefit from lower sodium and higher amounts of vital nutrients. These groups include, but are not limited to:
- People who currently suffer from hypertension
- People who are diabetic of suffer from chronic kidney disease
- African Americans
- Middle-aged through older adults
The main focus with these groups is sodium reduction. By consuming food with less sodium content and limiting salt/salt substitute intake it will help fight off high blood pressure. For an example, instead of buying canned veggies, which are loaded with sodium, buy fresh veggies and season them with natural herbs and spices. You can also include foods that are high in potassium, like raw veggies and fruits.
Where did the DASH diet originate and Why?
The Dash diet came about for the reasons it has designed – hypertension. It is said that high blood pressure affects nearly 50 million Americans. Since hypertension presents a greater risk for developing cardiovascular disease, it’s important to lower blood pressure to prevent the occurrence of kidney disease, heart attack/failure and stroke.
With any disease prevention, the core of prevention is diet. If you think about it, our bodies function according to what the fuel we put in them, aka food. Some diets are tailored for certain diseases and not everyone should follow them. However, everyone can benefit from a normal within-range blood pressure and healthy heart. The DASH diet does just that. It focuses on foods that are high in key nutrients and anti-oxidants to help fight off many chronic health issues that much American face today. These include, but are not limited to heart disease, stroke and many forms of cancers.
What does the diet include?
Now that we know more about what the DASH diet is and what its purpose it, here are some guidelines needed to follow to ensure proper nutrition intake and maintain or lower blood pressure.
- When it comes to fat, it should make up 20-30% of your caloric intake while saturated fat should be below 10%.
- If you are following the DASH diet correctly, you should be receiving the adequate amount of proteins and carbohydrates in your diet.
- With salt, 2,300 mg is ideal, but shoot for 1,500mg to if you are trying lower blood pressure.
- Fiber is key in digestions. If you are following the DASH diet, you should have no problem receiving up to 34grams daily.
- 4,700 mg of Potassium is an ideal amount but is hardly reached by many. Following the DASH diet correctly, you will have the advantage of reaching the recommended amount.
- To maintain bone density and proper blood flow and muscle function, 1,300 mg of calcium should be the goal and will be reached with the DASH diet.
- Vitamin B-12 and D are very important when maintaining a particular diet. The DASH diet will help maintain and provide enough Vitamin B-12 and will also provide adequate Vitamin D amounts if you choose a whole grain cereal that has high amounts of D vitamins.
Following this diet can be easy if we just remember to follow what we’ve always known but haven’t always followed: Eat fruits, vegetables, lean meats and keep your sweet tooth in check! This article is meant to inform and promote healthy living with a well, balanced diet and of course, exercise. As always, you should consult your doctor before starting any type of diet regimen.