High Blood Pressure Diet
Most people know about the strong link between a healthy diet and disease prevention. But did you know that what you eat -- or don't eat -- may lower or prevent high blood pressure? Also, weight loss, if you are overweight or obese, is a safe and effective way to lower blood pressure.
By changing a few simple dietary habits, including counting calories and watching portion sizes to boost weight loss, you may be able to lower your blood pressure -- a proven risk for heart disease. Here's the latest diet information you need.
Does weight affect blood pressure?
High blood pressure is more common in people who are overweight or obese. But studies show that losing weight has benefits in lowering high blood pressure. Losing weight may also help reduce medications needed to control high blood pressure.
If you are overweight, talk to your doctor about a healthy weight loss plan. The best way to lose weight is to move around more -- burning more calories than you take in through exercise and activity. Regular exercise (at least 30 minutes most days) can also help lower blood pressure and strengthen your heart.
Some people are not aware of the calories they consume each day. They may underestimate how much they eat and wonder why they cannot lose weight. Keeping a food diary or written record of your daily food intake is the best way to know what you eat each day.
Writing down the foods you eat, including the portion sizes, can let you see "the real facts" about your food intake. You can then start cutting back --reducing calories and portion sizes -- to lose necessary pounds and manage your weight and blood pressure.
How does diet influence blood pressure?
Many foods and dietary factors affect blood pressure. Studies show a high-sodium diet increases blood pressure in some people. In fact, some studies show that the less sodium you eat, the better blood pressure control you might have -- even if you're taking blood pressure medications.
Findings also show that potassium, magnesium, and fiber may also affect blood pressure. Fruits and vegetables are high in potassium, magnesium, and fiber and low in sodium. Also, nuts, seeds, legumes, lean meats, and poultry are good sources of magnesium.
Is the DASH Diet effective for lowering high blood pressure?
Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) was a study of the effect of different dietary patterns on reducing high blood pressure. Researchers found that volunteers who followed the DASH diet had significantly lower blood pressure after just a few weeks.
They also found the lower-sodium DASH diet, which calls for reducing sodium to 1,500 milligrams a day (about 2/3 teaspoon of table salt), resulted in even greater blood-pressure-lowering benefits.
The Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture recommend that adults should not consume more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day; the recommendations also say that African-Americans, people with hypertension, and people who are middle-aged and older, should not consume more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day.
Research has shown reduced risk of coronary artery disease and stroke in women who followed the DASH diet for several years.
What is the DASH diet eating plan?
The DASH diet's eating plan is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, poultry, nuts and legumes, and low-fat dairy. These foods are high in key nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, fiber, and protein.
Unlike the "typical American" diet, the DASH diet has less sodium (salt), sugar, desserts, sweetened beverages, fats, and red and processed meats.
To start the DASH diet, follow these food groups and serving amounts (based on 2,000-calories a day):
- Grains: 7-8 daily servings (serving sizes: 1 slice of bread, 1/2 cup cooked rice/pasta, 1 ounce dry cereal)
- Vegetables: 4-5 daily servings (serving sizes: 1 cup raw leafy greens, 1/2 cup cooked vegetable)
- Fruits: 4-5 daily servings (serving sizes: 1 medium fruit, 1/2 cup fresh or frozen fruit, 1/4 cup dried fruit, 6 ounces fruit juice)
- Low-fat or fat-free dairy products: 2-3 daily servings (serving sizes: 8 ounces milk, 1 cup yogurt, 1.5 ounces cheese)
- Lean meat, poultry, and fish: 2 or fewer servings a day (serving sizes: 3 ounces cooked meat, poultry, or fish)
- Nuts, seeds, and legumes: 4-5 servings per week (serving sizes: 1/3 cup nuts, 2 tablespoon seeds, 1/2 cup cooked dry beans or peas)
- Fats and oils: 2-3 daily servings (serving sizes: 1 teaspoon vegetable oil or soft margarine, 1 tablespoon low-fat mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons light salad dressing)
- Sweets: try to limit to less than 5 servings per week. (serving sizes: 1 tablespoon sugar or jelly/jam)
Aim to cut back to 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day (about 1 teaspoon of table salt). Once your body adjusts to the lower-sodium diet, you can lower your salt intake even further to 1,500 milligrams per day (about 2/3 teaspoon table salt).
Of course, first talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian before starting the DASH diet. They can give you more information on food choices and serving sizes.
Also, even on the DASH diet, calories still count, if you need to lose weight. Your doctor or dietitian can explain how to count calories and portion sizes for weight loss.
Which fruits and vegetables are natural sources of potassium, magnesium, and fiber?
To increase your intake of potassium, magnesium, and fiber naturally, select from the following:
- beet greens
- green beans
- grapefruit juice
- green peas
- lima beans
- sweet potatoes
- yogurt (fat-free)
How can I lower sodium in my diet?
To lower the sodium in your diet, try these easy suggestions:
- Keep track of the sodium content in the foods you eat. Use a food diary to write down the food, serving size, and amount of sodium.
- Aim for less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium each day (about 1 teaspoon of salt per day). Ask your doctor if you should go lower to 1,500 milligrams of sodium each day.
- Read the nutritional facts label on every food package. The amount of sodium is listed on the label.
- Select foods that have 5% or less of the Daily Value of sodium (this percentage is listed on the nutritional facts label)
- Avoid foods that have 20% or more Daily Value of sodium.
- Avoid canned foods, processed foods and lunch meats, and fast foods
- Use salt-free seasonings in food preparation