May is High Blood Pressure Month. If you have hypertension (high blood pressure), I encourage you to adopt the DASH Diet lifestyle.  DASH Diet  has been shown to lower blood pressure, and is also linked to better brain health, good diabetes control, less depression, and weight control.

While you may need medication to treat your hypertension, you may be able to take less medication if you adopt the diet. Even those who are only at risk for high blood pressure definitely should be following DASH Diet as a preventive measure.

How do you know if you are at increased risk for high blood pressure?

  • Family history of heart disease (your parents or siblings had a heart attack, stroke, or coronary artery disease)
  • Family history of high blood pressure or diabetes (Everyone with a family history should let their children know about the risk. Blacks and African Americans are at even higher risk)
  • Overweight or obese
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Poor diet (high salt, high fat, high sugar, low fiber)
  • High cholesterol
  • High stress lifestyle
  • Alcohol (heavy drinker)
  • Smoker (please find a way to quit!)

Stay or Get Active

In addition to following the basic guidelines of the DASH Diet, you also want to add regular exercise and stress reduction to your lifestyle. Making the effort to schedule in some movement every day is important. Look for support to keep you on track – use an exercise tracker bracelet/watch, enroll in a set of classes and pay ahead, or enlist a friend to exercise with. While all forms of exercise count, consider including a yoga practice with a weekly yoga class to help you combat stress. Having a variety of different activities scheduled into your week will help you enjoy exercise more, and not get bored with any one activity.

Change Up Your Daily Diet

The foods you eat play a powerful role in monitoring your blood pressure. DASH Diet is not just about low salt or less sodium. If you’re still not convinced you should adopt the DASH Diet, consider this challenge: Try the simple changes below for two weeks, and check your blood pressure during that 2-week period using a home monitor.

DASH Diet Challenge: Add 2 more servings of fruit, 2 more vegetables, and one more 8-ounce glasses of milk to your day

Adding Fruit

  • Ideas: Make a smoothie with a cup of strawberries and 8 ounces of 1% milk, plus 3 ice cubes
  • Slice a banana into oatmeal or top your cereal with berries for breakfast
  • Add an apple or orange as a snack in the afternoon.
  • Drink a glass of milk as a snack to hold you over to the next meal, or have an 8-ounce glass of chocolate milk after exercise.
  • Enjoy a yogurt parfait – top plain yogurt with 1/2 cup of fresh berries, and a drizzle of honey or maple syrup. In addition, you can also add 2 TB of granola to it.

Adding More Veggies

  • Think of vegetables that can easily be added to dinner meal: A baked potato, a sweet potato, a cup of green beans, sautéed spinach, a cup of cooked broccoli
  • Put raw carrots or bell pepper strips into your lunch box to enjoy with lunch or as a snack
  • Add shredded cabbage and slivers of mango or apple to your wrap sandwich
  • Create lunches that are vegetable-focused. Potatoes are a fantastic source of potassium and vitamin C! Get away from sandwiches, and instead top potatoes or salads with things you’d add to a sandwich. Baked potatoes can be topped with anything – chopped chicken, sliced leftover beef, beans, or a little cheese and broccoli.
  • Main dish salads focus on veggies and can also be topped with small portions of protein (beans, fish, leftover chicken/pork/beef, cottage cheese, canned/pouch tuna) and extra vegetables.
  • Add beans to stews, side dishes, or salads. Drain and rinse canned beans for an easy high fiber, potassium and vitamin-rich protein.
  • Use the oven to easily cook veggies. Cut just about any vegetable into cubes. Place on a cookie sheet and drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil. Bake for 20-30 minutes in a 400 degree oven. Make one big batch of these and then just heat them up all week for dinner. Or, top salads or pasta with them for another meal.

I would love to hear about your results. Adopt these simple changes, and track your blood pressure. Let me know about your results in the comment section below!