High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a dangerous health condition that is all too common. According to the CDC, about one in every three adults in the U.S. (about 75 million people) have high blood pressure, and only about half have it under control.
High blood pressure is dangerous because it significantly increases the risk for heart disease and stroke, both of which are leading causes of death in the U.S. The problem is, for most people, there are no warning signs or symptoms, so most people don’t even know that they have it. This is why blood pressure is often called “the silent killer.”
Fortunately, high blood pressure can be controlled with lifestyle changes, and potentially, medication prescribed by your doctor.
The good news is, for most people, diet, combined with exercise, can significantly positively influence your blood pressure.
Here we will give you a guide for what to eat (and what to avoid) to help you lower your blood pressure.
The DASH Diet for Lowering Blood Pressure
DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stopping Hypertension, which is a research-backed approach to lowering your blood pressure to healthy levels through food.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation sums up the scientific basis for the DASH diet:
The DASH Diet is based on two studies, DASH and DASH-Sodium, that looked at ways of reducing blood pressure through changes in diet. In the DASH study, people were given one of three eating plans: a plan similar in nutrients to what most North Americans eat; the same plan but with extra vegetables and fruit; or the DASH diet, which is rich in vegetables, fruit and low-fat dairy foods and lower in saturated fat, total fat and cholesterol.
The results were compelling. The diet higher in vegetables and fruit and the DASH diet both reduced blood pressure. The DASH diet had the greatest effect on blood pressure, lowering levels within two weeks of starting the plan […]
In the DASH-Sodium study, participants were given one of three sodium plans […] Blood pressure was lower for everyone on the DASH diet. However, the less salt people consumed, the greater the decrease in blood pressure. People who already had high blood pressure had the largest decrease in blood pressure.
In other words, following the DASH diet can help you significantly improve your blood pressure.
What is the DASH Diet?
The DASH diet divides food into seven food groups, as follows:
- Vegetables (4-5 servings a day)
- Fruit (4-5 servings a day)
- Grains (mainly whole grains) (6-8 servings a day)
- Low-Fat or No-Fat Dairy Foods (2-3 servings a day)
- Lean meats, poultry and fish (3 oz. per serving) (2 servings or less a day)
- Nuts, seeds and dry beans (4-5 servings per week)
- Fats and Oils (2-3 servings a day)
It is very important to avoid the following foods and food components:
- Added salt
- Saturated fat
- Foods and drinks high in added sugar (like sodas and juices)
Additionally, do not smoke, or quit as soon as possible, since smoking significantly increases blood pressure. Limit drinking alcohol as much as possible.