DASH Your Way to a Healthy Blood Pressure
Jill Trotman, MPH, RDN, CDE
In November 2017, the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology released new guidelines regarding healthy blood pressure goals for Americans. These new guidelines lower the definition of high blood pressure to account for health problems that can occur at lower numbers. The new definition will result in 46% of the US population having high blood pressure.
Blood pressure categories in the new guideline are:
• Normal: Less than 120/80 mm Hg;
• Elevated: Systolic between 120-129 and diastolic less than 80;
• Stage 1: Systolic between 130-139 or diastolic between 80-89;
• Stage 2: Systolic at least 140 or diastolic at least 90 mm Hg;
• Hypertensive crisis: Systolic over 180 and/or diastolic over 120
Step one in blood pressure management is lifestyle change. The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) has been proven through research by The National Institutes of Health to improve blood pressure. Here are a few simple changes you can make to get started with the DASH diet.
1. Choose more produce. Fruits and vegetables are rich in potassium which helps with blood pressure management. The goal is 8-11 servings of vegetables or fruit daily. Chose a fruit or vegetable at every meal or snack to fit in all of the produce.
2. Go for low-fat dairy 2-3 times a day. Low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese are good sources of calcium and magnesium which are minerals that are key in blood pressure management.
3. Choose less processed white flour and more whole-grains. Tasty whole grains include oats, 100% whole wheat bread, quinoa, and brown rice.
4. Beans, nuts, and seeds are healthy plant-based proteins. Choose these over animal protein more often.
5. Meat, poultry, eggs and fish are good sources of protein, but they should not be the star of your plate. Keep your portion to the size of a computer mouse.
6. Add healthy fats for flavor! Olive oil and avocados are rich in healthy mono-unsaturated fats that are good for the heart.
7. Choose high-quality treats, and enjoy them in the right amounts. Choose rich dark chocolate (70% cacao) as a sweet treat. Reduce sweets and processed foods.
8. The daily sodium guideline is 2300 mg per day or less. Check nutrition facts to learn about the sodium content of your foods.
In addition to diet, other parts of a healthy lifestyle that can help with blood pressure
• Limit alcohol intake to 1 drink to day for women and 2 drinks for men. (1 drink = 5 ounces
wine, 1 ounce spirits, 12 ounces of beer)
• Lose weight if you are overweight or obese.
• Stop smoking.
• Exercise at least 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week.
• Find a relaxation technique that works for you. Yoga, meditation, journaling, and breathing techniques can help release emotions and subsequent anxiety.
Talk to an AYB dietitian for a personal DASH diet plan just for you. We are here to help you
meet your health goals.