Managing Hypertension With DASH Diet

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Hypertension or high blood pressure is a common condition that is characterized by the increase force of the blood against the artery walls. If left untreated, this simple condition may eventually cause health problems like heart disease.

Blood pressure is measured by comparing the amount of blood that the heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in the arteries. High blood pressure is associated with more blood pumped by the heart and narrow arteries.

You can be affected by hypertension for years without experiencing any symptoms. However, even without the symptoms, damage to the heart and blood vessels can occur. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can also increase the risk of serious health condition like stroke and heart attack.

Symptoms of High Blood Pressure

There are some people who have high blood pressure who do not exhibit any symptoms, even when their blood pressure readings are already dangerously high. However, there are also some cases when symptoms can occur like headache and shortness of breath. Such symptoms, however, do not occur until the blood pressure has already become severe.

Causes of Hypertension

There are two types of high blood pressure. These are the primary or essential hypertension and secondary hypertension. For most adults, there is no identifiable cause of hypertension. This type of hypertension is known as the primary hypertension. This type tends to develop gradually over the years.

On the other hand, secondary hypertension is the type of hypertension that is caused by another health condition. Several health conditions and medications can lead to the second type of hypertension like kidney problems, thyroid problems, obstructive sleep apnea, adrenal gland tumors, birth control pills, cold medications, and over the counter pain medications. Alcohol abuse as well as the use of illegal drugs like cocaine can also cause secondary hypertension.

Managing Hypertension

When it comes to managing hypertension, maintaining a healthy weight is considered a powerful tool. This can be achieved by proper exercise and healthy diet. However, recent studies show that our food choices play a large role in determining the blood pressure levels. In fact, a dietary regimen known as the DASH diet is specially formulated to manage hypertension. This diet does not only allow decrease sodium intake but also help you choose your meals wisely according to your health needs.

DASH Diet

Whether you are trying to bring hypertension under control or you are trying to avoid its development, DASH diet can help. The DASH diet or the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension regimen was designed by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. This dietary regimen aims to protect against cancer, osteoporosis and heart diseases.

The principles involved in this dietary regimen involve the emphasis on the intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low fat dairy products. This diet plan also encourages the intake of legumes, poultry and fish. Red meat, fats, and sweets are also allowed. However, they must be consumed in moderation. This dietary regimen is low in cholesterol, total fat and saturated fat and high in fiber and nutrients like calcium, potassium and magnesium. Lastly, this diet plan encourages the reduction of the intake of sodium.

A Strategic Dietary Plan

If you want to control your hypertension, you must follow the basic principles of the DASH diet. The standard DASH plan is based on 2,000 calories per day. However, this can be adjusted accordingly based on your recommended caloric needs.

For instance, the DASH dietary regimen recommends seven to eight servings of grains in a day. Examples of the serving size of grains include one slice of bread, ½ bagel and ½ cup cooked rice or pasta. Health experts recommend that you opt for whole grains like wheat bread and brown rice instead of refined grains.  About four to five servings of vegetables is recommended for the DASH diet. This can be ½ cup cooked or raw vegetable. You should opt for fresh or frozen vegetables. You may also snack on veggies and dips.

For the fruits, the DASH diet recommends four to five servings in the form of ½ cup fresh or frozen fruit, ½ cup dried fruit, one medium piece of fruit, or ¾ cup fruit juice. You can have a glass of fruit juice for breakfast and a piece of fruit at lunch. You can also add fruits to cereals, salads, and yogurts. Low fat dairy products are also allowed in this dietary regimen. You can have two to three servings of fat free dairy a day. You can have one cup of low fat milk or yogurt or 1 ounce of low fat processed cheese. You can incorporate these in your meals like adding grated cheese on casseroles, salads and soups.

Meats, poultry and fish should be only about six ounce or less. You can have two to three ounce of lean meat, fish or poultry. It is important to remember that one egg is equivalent to one ounce. In preparing lean meat, you should trim away the skin and fat before cooking the meat. Moreover, you should also make use of low fat cooking methods like roasting, grilling or broiling.

Nuts, seeds and dried beans may be eaten four to five times in a week. While nuts, peanuts and seeds may be high in fat, this is considered a healthy type of fat. You can add some to your salad, oatmeal and stir fry meals. Fats and oils are allowed. However, they must only be two to three servings. You can make use of one tablespoon of soft margarine or one tablespoon of low fat mayo. You should always opt for healthy fats like canola oil, olive oil, peanut oil and soybean. Lastly, sweets should only comprise five tablespoons a week. One tablespoon of sweet is equivalent to ½ ounce jelly bean, 8 ounce lemonade and one tablespoon of jam or jelly. You can still enjoy occasional sweets. However, you should take them in moderation.

These dietary recommendations are based on a 2,000 calorie intake. If you need more or less, you can alter the servings based on your caloric intake. You can seek consult from a licensed nutritionist or your health care provider.

 References:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/basics/definition/con-20019580

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/High-Blood-Pressure-or-Hypertension_UCM_002020_SubHomePage.jsp

http://dashdiet.org/default.asp

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