Hello. This is Heart Health Tuesdays! Today, we’ll talk about how to lower your high blood pressure with the DASH Diet. You know that your diet can affect your tendency to develop high blood pressure, but how do you know what’s safe to eat and what you should avoid? Is there a simple, easy meal plan tailored especially for people worried about their blood pressure?
Say hello to the DASH diet!
With this diet, cutting out foods that contribute to hypertension is easy. Adjusting your eating habits can lower your blood pressure and significantly reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, all without having to worry about the side effects of blood pressure medications.
Studies have shown that the DASH diet can lower blood pressure in as little as two weeks. The diet can also lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol levels in the blood. High blood pressure and high LDL cholesterol levels are two major risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
Start eating right and feeling better today!
What Is the DASH Diet?
DASH is short for “dietary approaches to stop hypertension.” Its primary purpose is to lower your blood pressure, but it’s also great for reducing your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
Unlike many other diets you might only stick to for a few weeks while you try to shed some extra pounds, the DASH diet is designed to be a lifelong nutrition plan. It’s an overall healthier way of eating, not a fad diet you can start and stop in bursts.
The DASH Diet as a High Blood Pressure Treatment
How effective is the DASH diet for managing high blood pressure? For starters, it’s been ranked as the best overall diet for eight years running by the U.S. News and World Report.
In addition to beating out nearly 40 other diets for general effectiveness, it was also labelled as good as if not more effective for keeping blood pressure under control than many prescription medications.
You might have to give up a few foods you love, as is the case with all diets, but if they’re bad for your heart and your blood pressure, you’re better off leaving them off your plate anyway.
How to Follow the DASH Diet and Manage Your High Blood Pressure
The DASH diet has three main components. These are moderating portion size, increasing the nutritious value of your meals, and reducing sodium in your diet. Foods high in potassium, magnesium, and calcium are encouraged, while salty and fatty foods are discouraged.
Keep portions small and always read the labels of anything you pick up in the grocery store, and you should have no trouble at all.
What to Eat
The DASH diet is well-rounded and follows the general food pyramid structure. It’s high in whole grains and fresh produce, with smaller amounts of dairy and protein.
At six to eight servings per day, whole grains make up the majority of what you’ll be eating on the DASH diet. They’re free of saturated fats and generally low in sodium, and you don’t have to worry about the blood glucose spikes that can come from sugary white bread and grains.
Whole wheat bread and pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, and other nutritious grains are excellent choices.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and especially vegetables are a great choice for any healthy diet, and the DASH diet doesn’t skimp here. Leafy green vegetables are ideal, but you can also add other fresh or frozen veggies, as well as a few servings of fruit.
Aim for about four to five servings per day.
Dairy products like cheese and heavy cream can be very high in fat and aggravate your blood pressure. Opt for two or three servings of low-fat milk and yogurt instead to get your daily dairy intake.
Nuts and Seeds
The occasional handful of seeds or nuts is a great way to add variety to a DASH diet. Eat them alone or integrate with a meal—just skip the heavily salted variety. You can also enjoy a scoop of peanut butter or other nut butters.
Lean meats like chicken breast and fish are good heart-healthy choices. Eggs are also fine in moderation, but you should avoid eating red meat more than once a week and cut out high-sodium meats like ham and jerky entirely.
What to Avoid
There’s plenty to enjoy on the DASH diet, but you’ll want to steer clear of sodium and certain fats.
Saturated and Trans Fats
Not all fats are bad, but saturated and trans fats are among the worst for your overall health.
They’re even worse when you have hypertension, as they can raise your bad cholesterol levels. The higher your bad cholesterol, the higher your risk of developing plaques in your arteries. Plaques damage the blood vessels making it harder for your heart to pump blood through your arteries, which raises your blood pressure.
Skip the fried foods and limit saturated fats from butter, fatty meats, and cheese.
The DASH diet is very low in sodium since lots of salt can raise your blood pressure. Keep your sodium consumption to less than 1,500 mg per day.
Avoid foods high in sodium, especially pre-packaged ones like canned soup, shelf-stable vegetables, and cured meats.
Food For Thought
Nutrition is just one part of managing high blood pressure, but it’s an incredibly important piece of the puzzle. Just by making adjustments to what you eat, you can lower your blood pressure and minimize your risk of health issues.
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I’m excited to talk about this topic today because not only do I truly believe that you have the power to reverse heart disease and lower high blood pressure to improve your health, but the science also agrees! You can adopt healthy lifestyle practices that improve your health and enrich your life, which can in turn improve the lives of those close to you. You have the power to break the cycle of these chronic diseases so that you can leave a legacy of health to your loved ones.
As you may already know, I use lifestyle medicine as the first line of treatment, before medications, to treat lifestyle-related chronic diseases. Lifestyle-related chronic diseases include diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and some cancers, just to name a few. Lifestyle practices, such as eating a whole-food plant-based diet and regular physical activity, can help you improve blood pressure and reverse heart disease. In certain cases, these approaches may even outperform pharmaceutical therapy. But I always tell my patients that conventional medications may be appropriate at this time to prevent catastrophic illness, but over time, you can work to make the necessary lifestyle changes to possibly reduce and/or eliminate medications. Please remember to always consult your physician for your particular needs and circumstances prior to making any decisions whatsoever.
Is Dietary Supplementation Right For You?
There is a common saying, “You can’t outrun a bad diet.” This is especially true when it comes to heart health. Diet is sooooo very important… Did you know that your diet could be the key to a healthy heart? It’s true – what you eat (and don’t eat) can have a big impact on your cardiovascular health. So, if you’re looking to keep your heart in tip-top shape, make sure you pay attention to what you put on your plate.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to eat a healthy diet in this day and age. It is very important to note that we are not eating the same foods we ate years ago because the soils have been depleted of critical nutrients through current industrial farming practices. And because the soil is not as good as it used to be, the food supply (grown from the depleted soil) is not as good as it used to be. For example, you are not getting the same levels of magnesium as you would have gotten 30 or even 50 years ago.
Second, much of the food has been genetically altered, which can impact the inherent and unique nutritional composition that each food possess. For example, ancient einkorn wheat has less gluten, more protein, more Vitamin A, and more beta carotene, than modern genetically modified wheat.
Third, the toxic load in the environment today is much higher than 100 years ago. We can see this with global warming, toxic landfills, polluted oceans and waterways, etc. Toxicity levels interfere with nutrient assimilation and absorption not just into the foods, but into our bodies as well.
If you suspect that you aren’t getting the nutrients you need, consider shifting your focus from supplements to eating better. Improving your diet overall can do wonders for your overall health. You may not get all of the beneficial nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, etc., but you will be on the right path.
For some people, vitamin and mineral supplements offer important health benefits. Supplements are designed to fight deficiencies found in our diet and complement the food we eat regularly. Supplements are basically “helping hands” to our daily food.
If you need extra help in getting the nutrients you need, and/or are unable to eat better, the supplements in my Healthy Heart Bundle may provide the extra boost you need.
These are my favorite Heart Health Supplements to use! This Healthy Heart Bundle will ensure you have the intake of the important vitamins, minerals, and probiotics to decrease inflammation and boost your innate wellness day and night. Taken together, it’s a solid plan for increasing your body’s natural resiliency while you lose weight and improve your heart health, naturally.
For best results make sure you use my heart health supplements with dietary changes (whole food plant-based diet), regular exercise (at least 2-3x per week), regular sleep (8 hours per night), and intermittent fasting (at least 1-3x per week).
Tools to Improve Heart Health
Blood Pressure Monitoring
Since weight management is very important in blood pressure control, I recommend that you be mindful of your weight and its fluctuations, and that you monitor your weight AT LEAST on a weekly basis. I recommend a scale that includes a body composition monitor.
Remember, healthy lifestyle behaviors–like eating a whole-foods plant-based diet that is low in sodium, being physically active, and stress management are the best ways to prevent and control high blood pressure. Please talk with your doctor about any complementary health approaches, including supplements, you use.
Let me know what you think in the comment section below.
PS. I am always asked what tools and resources I recommend to help you reach YOUR health goals. Here is the ever-growing, always updated list for you.
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