If you read my last blog, you realized there is about a 50% chance you have high blood pressure. If you are African American it is close to 55%, and if you are over the age of 65, there is a 75% chance you have hypertension—that is, a blood pressure greater than 130/80.
So, what to do? One big emphasis is on Lifestyle Modification—reduction in sodium, increasing potassium, increasing exercise, reducing alcohol and following the DASH diet.
What is the DASH diet? DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This diet is a lifelong approach to healthy eating that's designed to help treat or prevent high blood pressure. The DASH diet encourages you to reduce the sodium in your diet and eat a variety of foods rich in nutrients that help lower blood pressure, such as potassium, calcium and magnesium.
Typically, the average American eats around 3400 grams of sodium a day. The DASH diet reduces that level to about 2300 or 1500 depending upon which diet is right for you and your health conditions.
Is this effective? A recent study from the National Institutes of Health showed that the lower sodium DASH diet could lower your systolic blood pressure up to 20.8 points—and those results were achieved in just 4 weeks on the diet. To put this into context, most blood pressure medications can reduce your systolic blood pressure an average of 12 to 16 points. So, depending upon your starting blood pressure, age and other factors, you might need at least two medications to achieve the same results as following the low-sodium DASH diet.
If you would like more information on the DASH diet, please contact us. We have two registered dietitians on staff that can readily assist you with more information.