If you're one of the 65 million American adults, one in three, with high blood pressure, you have probably heard the advice, "watch your diet, cut back on salt." But how? Figuring out what to eat and how much to eat is not always simple.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) has developed "Your Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure with DASH" to provide step-by-step advice on lowering and controlling high blood pressure by following the DASH eating plan. DASH, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, follows heart-healthy guidelines to limit salt or sodium, saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol, and focuses on increasing intake of fruits, vegetables, and fat-free or low-fat milk products. It is also rich in whole grain products, fish, poultry, and nuts.
"NHLBI studies have shown that the DASH eating plan can significantly lower high blood pressure, even within the first few weeks," said NHLBI Director Elizabeth G. Nabel, M.D. "They demonstrate that by making healthy choices in diet and physical activity, you can get on track to a healthier life."
The new guide updates previous publications of the DASH Eating Plan with a new look and is consistent with the 2005 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It also contains new information on potassium, weight loss, physical activity, a week's worth of menus, easy-to-prepare recipes, and a food diary for recording what you eat and the physical activity you do. In addition, the guide provides tips for heart-healthy choices at every meal, even when dining out, and for increasing physical activity.
Sometimes getting started on a heart-healthy eating plan can be the hardest part. The guide provides practical advice and suggestions for beginning with small changes such as:
- If you eat only one or two servings of vegetables per day, try adding one serving at lunch and another at dinner.
- Gradually switch to fat-free or low-fat milk and reduce servings of soda or other sweetened beverages.
- Choose whole grain foods, such as whole wheat bread or whole grain cereals to get added nutrients, such as minerals and fiber.
- When shopping, read the Nutrition Facts label on foods to find sodium content, and choose items lowest in salt or sodium.
- Start with a simple 15-minute walk during your favorite time of day and slowly build up.
- Don't worry about a slip. Start again, and be sure to celebrate successes.
The DASH guide is available for ordering through the NHLBI Information Center, (301) 301-592-8573 or 240-629-3255 (TTY) or online at http://catalog.nhlbi.nih.gov/catalog/product/Your-Guide-to-Lowering-Your-Blood-Pressure-with-DASH/06-4082
DASH is used as an example of a healthy eating plan by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005. DASH is also featured in a consumer book, A Healthier You: Based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- Your Guide to Lowering High Blood Pressure With DASH
- Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 and A Healthier You