High blood pressure or hypertension is a chronic condition affecting around 29% or 70 million American adults. One out of every three adults has it and it’s called the “silent killer” due to few warning signs or symptoms. When blood pressure is elevated, it can do major damage to artery walls and organs like the heart, brain, kidneys and eyes. This puts a person at risk for a heart attack, stroke, chronic heart failure and kidney disease.
One very effective lifestyle change of preventing or treating hypertension is to follow the DASH diet. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. When followed correctly, blood pressure can be reduced by a few points in just two weeks, making a significant reduction in health risks.
The DASH eating plan is low in saturated fat, cholesterol and total fat while emphasizing increasing the minerals of potassium, calcium and magnesium. The one mineral it recommends to decrease is sodium. Studies have shown reducing dietary sodium lowers blood pressure. Although sodium is a necessary nutrient, the average American consumes about 3400 mg of sodium a day, whereas the DASH diet stresses between 1500 mg to no more than 2400 mg of sodium a day.
8 steps to begin the DASH diet
Here are eight ways that highlight reducing sodium in the diet. Following these tips can help begin the process of lowering blood pressure:
1. Choose ready-to-eat breakfast cereals low in sodium.
2. Choose low-sodium or no-salt-added canned vegetables. Rinse canned vegetables in a colander under running water to remove excess sodium.
3. Rinsing canned tuna and canned beans will also remove excess sodium.
4. Avoid frozen dinners, boxed items, pizza, canned soups or broth and salad dressing which can contain a lot of sodium.
5. When eating out, avoid menu items that indicate high sodium content: smoked, cured, soy sauce, pickled or broth.
6. Choose fresh poultry, lean meat and fish, avoiding processed, smoked or canned items.
7. Use herbs and spices to flavor foods. Instead of reaching for the salt shaker, reach instead for fresh or dried herbs, spices, vinegar, citrus and salt-free seasoning blends to season foods. In most recipes, salt can be reduced by half.
8. Compare sodium amounts using the nutrition facts label. Look where the sodium content is listed and what the percent Daily Value (DV) is. Choose foods that have less than 5 percent of the DV for sodium and avoid foods with 20 percent of more of the DV for sodium.
There are many more components to following the DASH diet eating plan besides decreasing dietary sodium. Anyone can follow this diet regardless of their blood pressure status as it is a healthy way of eating for anyone of any age and can be followed for the rest of your life.
To learn a wealth of information on how to follow it, go to the link below and begin taking steps toward the DASH diet and achieve lower blood pressure.