What is Hypertension?
Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, can be a dangerous condition that can lead to heart disease if left untreated. Blood pressure is considered “high” if it measures at or above 140/90 mmHg. Among people over the age of 65, hypertension is very common. It’s important to eat heart-healthy foods to manage your blood pressure in order to reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
What is the DASH Eating Plan for Hypertension?
DASH stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension”, and it’s used to help manage blood pressure. DASH emphasizes heart-healthy foods and suggests to limit foods that raise blood pressure. These foods include: saturated and trans fats, red meat, sodium, and sugary foods and beverages. The DASH eating plan recommends eating more servings of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, which are packed with fiber. Something to keep in mind about starting the DASH eating plan is to slowly change your eating habits, as the rapid addition of foods high in fiber can cause GI issues such as bloating and diarrhea.
Grocery Shopping and Cooking Tips for Eating Less Sodium
- Rinse canned foods (ex: green beans and tuna) before eating to remove some sodium
- Buy fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables with “no salt added” on the label
- Buy fresh chicken, fish, and lean meat rather than processed, as they contain less sodium
- Read the label of salad dressings before buying – some contain a lot of sodium
- Use herbs, garlic, onions, and spices to season food instead of using salt
- Opt for low-sodium, reduced-sodium, and no-salt-added foods
What Else Can You Do to Prevent and Manage Hypertension?
Staying physically active is very effective in preventing and controlling hypertension. Thirty minutes of moderate exercise a day such as walking, biking, gardening, and climbing the stairs is all you need. If exercising for thirty minutes is too much for you, try breaking it up into ten minute intervals and do the activity three times a day.
Alcohol raises blood pressure, so it’s a good idea to limit your intake. If you do drink, it’s recommended to only have one drink a day at most for women and two drinks a day at most for men.
If you take medication to lower your blood pressure, still keep the nutritional and lifestyle changes above in mind. Ask your doctor if any of your medication interacts with certain types of food or drinks.
Keep a journal of the food that you’re eating and the amount of physical activity you’re doing every day. Make sure you bring your journal to your healthcare visits as this information can be very helpful to your doctor and/or dietitian.
Questions to ask you doctor if you have Hypertension
These might seem like obvious questions to ask, but it’s important to know as much as you can about your hypertension. Make sure to write these questions and answers down in case you need to refer back to them.
- What is the name and generic name of my medicine?
- What is my blood pressure reading?
- Should I buy a at-home blood pressure monitor?
- What are the side effect of my medicine?
- Is it safe for me to exercise? If so, what exercises are safe for me to do?
For more information about nutrition to combat chronic disorders or to develop a personalized meal plan to follow the DASH diet, visit us at www.rbitzer.com
Rebecca Bitzer loves to empower Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) and their clients. Co-author of Welcome to the Rebelution: Seven steps to the nutrition counseling practice of your dreams and Taste the Sweet Rebellion: Rebel against dieting.