Steps to Fight High Blood Pressure
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Nearly one out of two adults in the U.S. (116 million people) live with high blood pressure (HBP). HBP has many negative effects on the body, which include:
- Narrowing of the arteries and blood vessels
- Damage to the heart, brain, eyes and kidneys
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease which can cause stroke, heart attack, atherosclerosis and atrial fibrillation
- Increased risk of dementia
Blood Pressure Defined
It is important to have your blood pressure checked by your health care provider to find out if it is higher than normal and to take control of this manageable condition.
High blood pressure is defined by the following guidelines.
- Top number, called systolic blood pressure: Measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats
- Bottom number, called diastolic blood pressure: Measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests between beats
Go with DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension)
Some of the key lifestyle eating habits to lower blood pressure are simple, yet highly effective. American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology endorse the DASH style of eating to reduce blood pressure and improve overall heart health. This eating plan can also assist with weight loss and reduce the risk of cancer and type 2 diabetes.
DASH focuses on eating a variety of plant-based foods, lean proteins and healthy fats. It does not eliminate or heavily restrict certain foods or entire food groups, which makes it much more sustainable than many restrictive diets. The DASH eating plan promotes consuming:
- More whole, fresh and unprocessed or minimally processed foods (such as fresh fruit and veggies, simply cooked starches such as corn, beans, potatoes and whole oats)
- Less salt and sodium with a goal of no more than 2,300 mg/day
- Limited added sugar and high-fat items (such as sugary sodas, coffee, cake, pie and ice cream)
Keep in mind quick fixes are not the solution when it comes to improving your health. If you don’t see yourself following a list of diet rules for the rest of your life, it does not make sense to abide by them even for the short term.
Simple Steps to Follow DASH
- Fill your plate with whole grains, veggies and fruit at most meals and snacks to get the recommended quantity.
- Choose lower fat dairy such as skim or fat-free milk, low-fat cheese and nonfat or low-fat Greek yogurt or cottage cheese. You may also opt for dairy alternatives that contain calcium such as unsweetened almond or soy milk.
- Select leaner animal proteins—fish, poultry, lean cuts of red meat (less often) and eggs or egg whites.
- Opt for healthier unsaturated fats and oils in small amounts—especially olive and avocado oil, avocados and lighter versions of buttery spreads, mayo and salad dressings.
- Enjoy more plant-based proteins, some of which contain healthy fats such as nuts and seeds, and legumes (which include beans, lentils and edamame) 3-5 times a week.
When you put all of this together, your plate will look something like this:
- Breakfast: Oatmeal topped with sliced banana or berries, chopped nuts and a side of Greek yogurt
- Lunch: Roasted chicken sandwich on whole wheat bread with vegetables, sliced avocados, a side salad and a piece of fruit
- Dinner: Grilled salmon filet with a side of brown rice or a sweet potato, steamed broccoli and/or cauliflower and a side salad with olive oil/vinegar dressing (if possible)
- Snack: Low-fat Greek yogurt with berries or light string cheese with an apple or grapes
Aim for Progress, Not Perfection
When a person with high blood pressure adopts these concepts into their daily food intake as a lifestyle, there is room for moderate amounts here and there of sweets and salty foods. These simple guidelines are meant to be practiced daily or at least most days of the week. But it’s important to know there is NO perfection in this plan. A person can still dine out and enjoy food with friends and family, travel and live life to the fullest. Think of this style of eating as a simple and sustainable lifetime plan, not a short-lived “diet.” The good news is adopting it may help you prevent chronic diseases and maintain a better quality of life!
Meet with a registered dietitian nutritionist to help you develop a sustainable plan fit to your lifestyle and health goals. To learn more about one-on-one consultations with a Cooper Clinic registered dietitian nutritionist, visit cooperclinicnutrition.com or call 972.560.2655.
Article provided by Elana Paddock, RDN, LD, CDCES, and Cooper Clinic Nutrition.