High blood pressure, or hypertension, is often called a 'silent killer' because there are no warning signs or symptoms.
High blood pressure often leads to heart attack and stroke and also contributes to congestive heart failure and kidney disease. Paying attention to your blood pressure is one of the most important preventive health measures you can take.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends consuming less than 1500mg of sodium per day to keep blood pressure levels in a healthy range.
Reducing your salt intake, however, isn't the only way to lower blood pressure. The AHA recommends the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) as an effective, proven method to decrease blood pressure levels.
The original research reported in the New England Journal of Medicine found that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy foods, and with reduced saturated and total fat can substantially lower blood pressure. The DASH diet is also an overall healthy way of eating: low in cholesterol, high in dietary fiber, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, and moderately high in protein.
Try these 5 DASH-diet tips to lower your blood pressure while improving your overall health:
1. Each day enjoy 5 servings of vegetables to increase your intake of potassium, magnesium and fiber. Include vegetables with lunch and dinner, and add vegetables to a snack such as celery sticks with peanut butter or cherry tomatoes with hummus.
2. Include one serving of fruit with each meal, plus another serving for a snack. Add fruit to your morning bowl of cereal, peel an orange for lunch, serve a quick fruit salad with dinner, and enjoy low-fat cottage cheese with fruit for a snack.
3. Incorporate 3 servings of low-fat or non-fat dairy products into your daily food choices for optimum amounts of protein and calcium. Serve non-fat milk with meals and enjoy nonfat yogurt with fresh fruit for a healthy dessert.
4. Add one serving of nuts, seeds, or legumes (garbanzo beans, lentils, split peas, etc.) into your weekly food choices for magnesium, potassium and fiber. Toss nuts or garbanzo beans into a salad, mix pumpkin seeds into yogurt, or add sliced almonds to steamed green beans.
5. Reduce daily salt intake by preparing foods from scratch instead of using convenience foods with added salt.
Lynn Grieger, RD, CDE, cPT is a health, food and fitness coach in Manchester and online at www.LynnGrieger.com. A favorite DASH-diet lunch is a salad with garbanzo beans and walnuts along with plain non-fat Greek yogurt mixed with berries.