High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a significant health concern, especially here in the United States. Newly released American Heart Association guidelines state there are four ways to classify blood pressure: normal (120/80 mm Hg or less), elevated (120-129/less than 80 mmHg), stage 1 (130-139/80-89 mmHg), or stage 2 (140/90 mmHg or higher). These new guidelines lower the definition of high blood pressure, so you may have had a shift in your diagnosis while your blood pressure remained the same.
When measuring blood pressure, there are two measurements. The top number is systolic; this measures the pressure when your heart beats. The bottom number is diastolic; this measures the pressure when your heart rests between beats.. Seventy percent of adults who have hypertension are aware of their condition, but only thirty-four percent control it. Lifestyle strategies to control hypertension include weight management, limiting sodium, and alcohol intake for those adults who drink.
One way to limit sodium intake is to follow the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH, Diet. Every day, it is recommended to consume
6-8 servings of grains, equivalent to one slice of bread or ½ cup of cereal or pasta, ideally eating only 100% whole grains. Aim for 4-5 servings of fruit per day--a serving is 6 oz of 100% fruit juice, ½ cup cut, or 1 medium piece of fruit. Daily servings of vegetables should also be between 4-5 servings. To make it easier to remember, for every fruit you eat, you should also eat a vegetable. When buying canned or frozen vegetables look for low or no-salt-added options.
Are you a milk lover? Suggested dairy consumption on the DASH diet is 2-3 servings of skim or 1% milk or fat-free dairy products every day. Try to avoid 2% or whole fat milk and other dairy products as they add additional fat (and calories). One serving of dairy is 8 oz milk, 1 cup of yogurt, or 1 ½ oz cheese. Unlike a typical American diet that is very high in meat, the DASH diet recommends only consuming 2 or fewer servings of lean meat, fish, or poultry per day. A serving of meat is 3 ounces (about the size of a deck of cards after cooking). In the following category of nuts, seeds, and legumes, it is recommended to consume 4-5 servings per week. A serving of nuts and legumes is 1/3 cup of nuts, two tablespoons nut butter, two tablespoons of seeds, or ½ cup of cooked beans or legumes. The DASH diet recommends that we only consume 2-3 servings of added fats and oils per day. One serving is equal to 1 teaspoon of butter or other oils. Finally, limit sweets to less than five servings of throughout the week. There is such a variety of desserts that might end up on our plate, so it is essential to carefully monitor serving sizes to ensure you are not overeating these treats.
The DASH diet is not only good for hypertension, but overall heart health, healthy eating, diabetes, and even weight loss. It has been proven to lower blood pressure and cholesterol. The diet is also associated with lower risk of several types of cancer, heart disease, stroke, heart failure, and kidney stones.