DASH Diet: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a major cause of heart disease globally, therefore, the single most important cause of death.
The burden of hypertension globally is greatest in low- and middle-income countries, where it affects one in every 5 adults. It is estimated that by 2025, the prevalence would increase to 3 in 4 people in these countries.
In Africa, statistics reveal that 80 million adults had hypertension in 2020. This figure is estimated to double by 2025.
The complications of hypertension – stroke, heart failure, heart attack – are the leading causes of death worldwide, and are the reasons you should take the treatment of hypertension serious.
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is a pivotal step in lowering your blood pressure to normal levels if you are hypertensive.
The DASH Diet plan is a lifelong dietary pattern aimed at lowering your intake of sodium, a major blood chemical that contributes to blood pressure, and increasing your intake of nutrients, such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium, that lower blood pressure.
Following the DASH diet plan consistently can lower your blood pressure by close to 20 points within a few months, which does a lot of good for your cardiovascular health. In addition, the DASH diet has other health benefits, such as lower risk of arthritis, cancer, and diabetes.
What Foods are components of the DASH Diet?
The DASH diet comprises fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy foods, fish, legumes, poultry, nuts, and seeds. Generally, the diet discourages intake of food high in saturated fats, such as red meat.
Low Sodium Intake
Avoid using salt for cooking; use sodium-free flavorings instead. Rinse your canned foods before consumption to remove excess salt used in preserving the food. In addition, buy food items labeled “salt-free” or “low sodium”
These include brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, and whole-wheat bread. The recommended amount of whole grains in the DASH plan is 6 to 8 servings daily. Examples of one serving of whole grain are 1 slice of whole-wheat bread and half a cup of cooked rice or pasta.
Take 4 to 5 servings of fruits every day to lower your blood pressure. An example of one serving of fruits is one medium fruit or 4 ounces of juice.
Vegetables, including carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, green vegetables, and sweet potatoes are rich in fiber, potassium, and magnesium, which help to lower blood pressure. Eat 4 to 5 servings of vegetables daily to lower your blood pressure. An example of one serving is 1 cup of raw leafy green veggies.
Milk, cheese, and yogurt are examples of low-fat dairy products. These foods are rich in calcium and protein that help to lower blood pressure. Consume 2 to 3 servings daily: 1 cup of low-fat yogurt or 1 cup of 1 percent milk is equivalent to a serving.
Fish, poultry, and lean meat
These are rich sources of protein, B-vitamins, and minerals such as zinc and iron that have enormous health benefits, including healthy blood pressure. Eat up to 6 servings a day. Go for heart-healthy fish such as tuna and salmon and ensure you go for the lean varieties of meat.
Legumes, nuts, and seeds
Eat 4 to 5 servings of these weekly. Examples of legumes include almonds, kidney beans, peas, and brown-eyed peas. Legumes are high in fiber which protects the heart and blood vessels. Nuts, legumes, and seeds are, however, high in calories and should only be consumed in small amounts weekly. Examples of one serving is a half cup of nuts or cooked beans, and 2 tablespoons of seeds.
You should start these dietary changes gradually: increase the servings of these foods in small amounts while taking yourself off high-fat or sodium-rich foods to achieve a healthy blood pressure control.