Improve your blood
pressure with DASH eating plan
Research has shown that high blood pressure, or hypertension, can be lowered by following the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan and reducing the amount of sodium consumed.
The DASH study, supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), showed that blood pressures were reduced with an eating plan that is low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and total fat, and that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods. This eating plan—known as the DASH eating plan—also includes whole grain products, fish, poultry, and nuts. It is rich in magnesium, potassium, and calcium, as well as protein and fiber, and it calls for reduced amounts of red meat, sweets and sugar-containing beverages.
The 2005 Dietary Guidelines recommend that adults consume 4 ½ to 5 cups of fruits and vegetables daily, which is about half the food on your plate at each meal. The DASH eating plan is in line with these recommendations.
In the DASH study, the greatest blood pressure reductions were for the DASH eating plan when people consumed 1,500 milligrams or less of sodium per day. Those with hypertension saw the biggest reductions in blood pressure, but those without hypertension also saw large decreases in blood pressure.
Americans get only half the amount of potassium and fiber they need. The majority of Americans don’t get nearly enough vitamin C, vitamin A, or magnesium. Fruits and vegetables are rich in all of these.
Diets rich in potassium can lower blood pressure and help blunt the effect of salt on blood pressure. Less than 10 percent of adult men and 1 percent of adult women get adequate potassium needed for healthy blood pressure. Blood pressure is directly related to the balance of sodium and potassium in the blood. Americans may be consuming more sodium than they think because 75 percent of sodium is consumed from processed and fast foods and only 5 to 10 percent from added salt.One teaspoon of table salt (about 6 grams of sodium chloride) equals 2400 milligrams of sodium, so the amount of sodium we’re talking about at 1,500 milligrams equals about 2/3 teaspoon of table salt. These amounts include all salt consumed—salt that is in food products, used in cooking, and added at the table.
Only small amounts of sodium occur naturally in food. Processed foods account for most of the salt and sodium Americans consume. Be sure to read food labels to choose products lower in sodium.
Here are some tips to reduce salt or sodium in your diet:
It’s easy to adopt the DASH eating plan. Here are some ways to get started:
Treat meat as one part of the whole meal, instead of the focus.
Source: The DASH Eating Plan, May 2003, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
DASH Eating Plan Available from the National
Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute:
Mary Schroepfer, MED
Nutrition & Health Education Specialist