Dear Holly – My doctor is talking about the DASH diet for me. What is it? – Salty
Dear Salty: The DASH diet stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It is an eating plan that helps to manage high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, abbreviated HTN.
Your blood pressure is a dynamic, changing number. The top number is called systolic and the bottom is called diastolic. The systolic is the measured pressure in your vessels when the heart is contracting and the bottom is the pressure when the heart is (briefly) relaxed. We measure blood pressure using a cuff called a sphygmomanometer (say that three times fast!).
The goal is to be below 120/80. If the top number rises above 120 consistently, that is considered pre-hypertension. If it rises above 140 consistently, that is considered hypertension. Unfortunately, there is not that much wiggle room between kind of high and too high. Above 80 but below 90 for the diastolic is pre-HTN, above 90 is HTN.
Throughout the day, your physical activity, hydration, stress and other factors influence where your blood pressure is. Being ill, having an injury or taking certain medications can also influence your readings. Some people have genes that make them more vulnerable to HTN. We also tend to see our blood pressure rise with age. Some of these factors can be modified – we are stuck with our genes and age.
The DASH plan is one way to influence your numbers! It is based on sound research; it is not a fad diet or quick fix! The plan helps to control calories and portions to manage having a healthy weight; which is one other factor influencing blood pressure.
What does the eating plan look like? Loads of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, low-fat dairy, whole grains, vegetable oils and beans. The eating plan minimizes red meat, sweets, refined carbohydrates, and sodium. Several minerals influence blood pressure. On average, Americans are consuming too much sodium (salt) and insufficient potassium, magnesium and calcium. The DASH diet reverses that ratio and therefore improves blood pressure.
HTN is considered a “silent killer” because most people do not have any symptoms of their high blood pressure. When you actually feel the high blood pressure may not be until you’re having a stroke or aneurysm! The DASH diet can also improve weight, blood lipid values and blood sugar. If you are ready to take charge of your blood pressure, an appointment with your local dietitian and the DASH diet can help support your goals!
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What’s your question for Holly? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information and to make an appointment to work on your goals, visit Grass Roots Nutrition, LLC and BrideBod, owned by me, Holly Larson, a Registered Dietitian. Visit me online at hollylarsonrd.com and follow us on Facebook. Have a delicious, healthy day!