The Best Diet To Lower Your Blood Pressure
Eating a healthy diet is one of the best ways to lower blood pressure, and the one of the most effective eating plans available is the DASH diet – Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.
The plan has the seal of approval from the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute (NHBLI), one of the National Institutes of Health. And unlike more gimmicky diets, it requires no special foods but only a specified number of servings from various healthy food groups.
The plan is aimed at lowering salt consumption, one of the key factors in hypertension. The target figure for daily salt consumption is less than 1,500 mg – a big change, since the American Heart Association estimates the average American’s daily salt consumption at 3,400 mg.
First, though, you need to calculate how many calories you need every day. Your ideal calorie intake depends on your age and your activity level. Women who are 51 or over require 1,600 calories per day if they are sedentary; 1,800 per day if they are moderately active; and 2,000 to 2,200 if they are active depending on their activity level.
The NHBLI defines sedentary as performing light physical activity as part of a daily non-exercise routine. Moderately active is physical activity equal to 1.5 – 3 miles a day at 3 – 4 miles an hour, plus routine physical activity. Active, the NHLBI says, is equal to walking more than 3 miles a day, at 3 – 4 miles per hour, plus routine physical activity.
Once you’re ready to start, take a look at A Day with the DASH Eating Plan, which offers specific substitutions to bring your diet into a healthy range.
The DASH plan also offers some more general tips:
*Add a serving of vegetables at lunch one day and dinner on the next. Add fresh fruit at one meal or as a snack.
*Increase your servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy products to three servings per day.
*Limit lean meat to 6 ounces per day; 3 ounces is the size of a deck of cards.
*Eat at least two vegetarian (meatless ) meals per week.
As with all lifestyle modifications, changes should be gradual. The NHLBI offers some tips to help you get used to your new habits:
*With an increased consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains, you may experience some diarrhea. Change over little by little to your high-fiber diet.
*If you have a hard time digesting milk and milk products, take lactase-enzyme pills or buy lactose-free products.
*Nuts, in small quantities, are a good source of protein. If you’re allergic to them, use seeds or legumes (cooked peas) as a substitute.
*Even though you’re trying to lower your blood pressure, continue taking any hypertension medications you might be on. Be sure to tell your doctor you’re on the DASH eating plan.
For more information on DASH from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, click here. For an overview from the institute on hypertension and other ways to combat it, click here.