Lowering Your Blood Pressure with the DASH Diet

You've gotta eat, but certain foods can make your hypertension worse. Starting on a DASH Diet can help.

Along with exercise and reducing salt intake, diet is one of the cornerstone practices of naturally controlling high blood pressure -- and something called the "DASH Diet" may be your best all-around healthy eating option.

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stopping Hypertension, which is straightforward enough. The really exciting part is that you can enjoy noticeable results in as little as two weeks. So in this article, we'll take a look at DASH dieting basics, and offer up a few suggestions on how to implement it.

Good Stuff, Maynard

The DASH Diet revolves around all the good stuff you're supposed to consume a lot of anyway: low/no-fat dairy, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. All the tasty stuff you actually like to eat is frowned upon, especially sweets, red meat, and fats.

That's the tough part, of course -- one reason why some wag once pointed out that "diet" is "die" with a "t".

It's worth the pain, though, because for many people with hypertension, DASH works about as well as most medications. Add the cumulative effects of those medications, along with other standard efforts to lower one's blood pressure, and you can get back down into healthy territory surprisingly fast.

DASH can also help those who are at risk of hypertension, but haven't caught it yet, to keep their BP below the dreaded 140 mm systolic mark.

Other Benefits

A diet low in fats and carbs can do more for you than deflate your blood pressure. It can also help you deal with other life-threatening chronic issues, such as high cholesterol, diabetes, and cardiopulmonary disease (including both heart attacks and stroke).

Oh, and did we mention the fish? Along with nuts, our finny friends play an important part in DASH. Fish and some nuts are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, which protect the heart, support brain development and function, and fight inflammation.

Details, Details

The DASH diet is fairly flexible, but fairly limited: you'll have to stick to no more than 2,000 calories per day, which can also help you lose weight (thus providing all kinds of other benefits). The typical daily DASH meal plan includes:

Six ounces or less of lean meat
2-3 servings of fats and oils
2-3 servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy
4-5 servings of fruits
6-8 servings of whole grains
4-5 servings of veggies

You can also have 4-5 servings of legumes (like peas, peanuts, and beans) per week. The hard part is the sweets requirements: you have to limit yourself to fewer than five servings per week. So beware -- while the DASH Diet is wonderful for your health, you may have to struggle a bit to get it into place!

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