Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a chronic disease that is highly responsive to dietary and lifestyle changes. According to statistics from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, 33 percent of Americans currently have high blood pressure. An additional 22 percent of Americans is pre-hypertensive, which means members of this group have a blood pressure reading that is higher than normal most of the time and may be at risk of developing hypertension.
Hypertension often demonstrates no symptoms until the disease reaches a critical stage and has begun to affect vital organs. Your blood pressure reading is provided as one number over another, such as 140/90. The top number is your systolic pressure and the bottom number is your diastolic pressure. A normal blood pressure is a reading that measures below 120/80. If you have high blood pressure most of the time, then you are at higher risk for stroke, heart attack and chronic kidney disease.
Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension is an eating plan based on research sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. DASH restricts daily sodium intake and increases consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products. It also limits foods high in saturated fats. According to an article published in the Jan. 4, 2001, issue of the “The New England Journal of Medicine,” following the DASH plan can lower your blood pressure more than simply following a low-sodium diet. In the study, study participants with high blood pressure followed the DASH diet for 90 days while control groups followed three different low-sodium diets. At the end of the study period, the DASH eating group lowered both its systolic and diastolic pressure significantly more than the control groups.
American Heart Association
The American Heart Association routinely issues a set of dietary and lifestyle guidelines designed to reduce your risk of developing heart disease. The goals of the plan are to help you control your blood cholesterol levels, maintain a healthy body weight and achieve normal blood pressure levels. Like DASH, the AHA recommends that you eat lots of fruits, vegetables and high-fiber foods. The AHA also recommends that you consume oily fish, such as salmon or tuna, at least two times each week, drink fat-free or low-fat dairy products and minimize the number of sugary drinks you consume each day.
Sometimes, it is easier to reduce consumption of your favorite foods than to eliminate them entirely, so aim for small, daily dietary changes. Reduce your daily intake of not only salt, but also sugar. According to the Boston Public Health Commission, drinking sugar-sweetened beverages can raise your blood pressure. Eat fewer processed or prepared meals; they are typically high in sodium. Instead, cook at home and use fresh ingredients. When you eat at restaurants, don't be afraid to make special requests. Sometimes, chefs are willing to prepare low-sodium versions of menu items.