May is High Blood Pressure Month – a time to bring awareness to your blood pressure. Have you had yours checked?
It’s normal for our blood pressure to fluctuate during the day, but consistent high blood pressure (called Hypertension) causes wear and tear on your heart, kidneys and brain. It’s important to know what your numbers are, and to treat it if it’s too high. You can have your blood pressure checked at most pharmacies. If it’s high see your doctor as soon as possible.
High blood is a risk factor for stroke, heart attack, congestive heart failure, and heart rhythm disorders. Since it typically doesn’t have symptoms, it’s often called the “silent killer”. This is a shame because it can be easily treated with medication, diet and lifestyle. Once you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, you should see your doctor for a yearly exam.
Do this for High Blood Pressure Month:
- Have your blood pressure checked this week
- See your doctor if it’s high
- Adopt a DASH Diet eating plan
- Start or modify a daily exercise program with your physician’s approval
- Drop a few pounds if you are overweight
How can DASH Diet help?
DASH Diet can help you lower your blood pressure by adding more foods high in potassium to your diet – fruits, vegetables and low fat dairy – and less salt and sodium. Potassium works in opposition to sodium and may have beneficial effects on the tone and health of your blood vessels (lowering blood pressure itself helps out there too). The diet plan also supports adding more foods with healthy monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids to your diet, and removing some of those high in saturated fats.
DASH is designed to help people with pre-hypertension too, so if you have a family history of high blood pressure (hypertension) then you should consider adopting the DASH Diet as well. Even if it doesn’t completely prevent high blood pressure, it will help you control it and likely allow you to be on less medication, should you develop hypertension. Plus it’s just an all-around healthy diet, so it’s win-win.
DASH Diet is also great for lowering blood cholesterol levels – another potential risk factor for heart disease. Since DASH includes plenty of fiber, antioxidants, and is low in saturated fat, plus is low in simple sugars – it will keep triglycerides and other blood lipids (fats) in check.
It’s not really a “Diet”
When people hear the word “Diet” they usually think “weight loss”. When I talk about “Diet” I’m talking about “what your eat”. DASH Diet can promote weight loss if calories are controlled (and weight loss does lower blood pressure), but it is not a “weight loss diet”, it’s an eating plan for life. After all, temporary over-restrictive dietary changes don’t generally result in life-long weight loss. Adopting a healthy diet that you can maintain, will.
DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, and is based on several research studies that showed this eating plan to lower blood pressure (even the study that modified sodium to a higher 3000gm per day, lowered blood pressure with the added fruits and veggies; and while the study that omitted low fat dairy did not result in as great a decrease in blood pressure, it was still lower).
By adopting the DASH eating style, you will gradually set goals to include more vegetables and fruit into your daily meal and snack intake, less saturated fat and high calorie foods, and less sodium and processed food. Try it and let me know how it goes!
NOTE: Try our Food Journal to help you track your progress with new diet and exercise goals.