Hypertension has been discovered to be the leading cause of a whole number of heart diseases, stroke and kidney problems. It greatly impacts the quality of life of people and can lead to death if not well managed. Blood pressure is the force exerted by the blood against the blood vessels. Medical guidelines define hypertension as a blood pressure higher than 140 over 90 millimeters of mercury (mmHg).A normal pressure is 120 over 80 millimeters of mercury (mmHg). One notable approach to reducing blood pressure is diet modification. This diet is known as DASH (dietary approach to stop hypertension)is a lifelong approach to reduce or prevent high blood pressure. It emphasizes the consumption of the right portion sizes, different food varieties and the right nutrients required. Dash diet basically suggests the following servings to each food you consume. The approach goes as follows;
Grains: 7-8 daily servings
Vegetables: 4-5 daily servings
Fruits: 4-5 daily servings
Low-fat or fat-free dairy products: 2-3 daily servings
Meat, poultry, and fish: 2 or less daily servings
Nuts, seeds, and dry beans: 4-5 servings per week
Fats and oils: 2-3 daily servings
Sweets: try to limit to less than 5 servings per week
TIPS FROM THE DASH DIET
Dash diet comprises of the following tips:
- Low sodium: foods at the core of dash diet should be low in sodium. This is because sodium causes increased reabsorption of water into the blood which causes high blood pressure. As a result, the extra stored water can cause strain to the kidneys, heart, arteries and brain. You can reduce sodium in your diet by:
- Use sodium free flavor and spices instead of salts to prepare meals.
- Eat home-made foods with low salt compared to foods in restaurants.
- Rinse canned foods to remove salt preservatives.
- Deliberate buying of foods labeled ‘sodium free’ or ‘no salt added’.
- Go foods like eggs, lean pork or beef, shellfish, dried peas and beef.
- Unsalted popcorn or unsweetened oatmeal
- Eat unsalted nuts and seeds.
- High potassium; Foods rich in potassium helps to aid the excretion of excess water in the blood caused by increased sodium intake and helps to reduce blood pressure.
- Any fresh fruits, like apples, oranges, avocado, bananas
- Any fresh vegetables, like spinach, pomegranate, carrots, cabbage, lettuce or broccoli
- Frozen vegetables without added sauce
- Canned vegetables that are low in sodium or have no salt added
- Low sodium vegetable juice
- Frozen or dried fruit (unsweetened)
- Canned fruit (packed in water or 100% juice, not syrup)
- Fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk
- Fat-free or low-fat yogurt
- Low- or reduced-sodium cheese (like natural Swiss cheese)
- Soymilk with added calcium
- Low sugar: Eating foods high in sugar puts you at risk of weight gain over time and lead to high blood pressure. Most sugar you eat is under the guise of fructose syrups in processed foods. Eating too much sugar is bad for your heart. Do all you can to avoid too much of sweetened foods like:
- Low-fat yogurt
- Soft drinks
- Flavored Coffees
- Iced tea
- Canned baked beans and fruits
- Hard candy
- Low fat or cholesterol: Eating food low in cholesterol helps prevent diseases like kidney diseases, stroke and heart diseases. Therefore, when you consume foods with high cholesterol, it causes a buildup in the arteries. This buildup then causes hardening which makes the arteries narrow for easy blood flow to the heart. This leads to increased pressure in the arteries to push blood out and can cause high blood pressure. Some of the foods low in cholesterol you can take are:
- Eggplant and okra
- Vegetable oils (sunflower, olive oil, groundnut oil)
- Nuts (almond, walnut, peanut)
- Soya beans (tofu, soy milk)
- Fish (salmon, herring, tuna)
- Foods like butter, margarine, milk, cream, cheese, fried foods, palm and groundnut oil should be limited.
- Water: Water forms a core part of the dash diet. Its importance cannot be overemphasized. It takes part in major body functions most especially maintaining fluid and water balance through the blood. The blood contains water as its major constituents along with other dissolved substances for maintaining blood pressure. Hence, substitute water for tea, coffee or soft drinks to help in the easy flow of blood which reduces blood pressure.