Thousands of people every year develop high blood pressure, or hypertension. Though you may need to take medication to lower your blood pressure, your diet can also have a significant effect.
The most common and effective high blood pressure diet is the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. This diet emphasizes portion sizes, eating a variety of foods and getting the most efficient amount of nutrients that will result in decreased blood pressure.
DASH Diet Overview
Through the DASH approach to healthy eating, you can reduce the sodium in your diet and eat different types of foods that contain nutrients that help lower blood pressure, such as potassium, magnesium and calcium.
By following this diet, you may be able to reduce your blood pressure by a few points in several weeks. Over time, your blood pressure can drop by up to 12 points, which makes a significant difference in health risks. Additionally, because this diet is healthy, it can help prevent cancer, stroke, heart disease and diabetes.
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What to Eat
The DASH diet includes a variety of whole grains, fruits, low-fat dairy, vegetables, fish, poultry and legumes – like beans, peas and lentils. You can also eat red meat, sweets and limited fats. If you are following a typical 2,000-calorie diet, then the following would be an example of your recommended servings from each food group and their typical serving sizes:
- Grains. One slice of whole-wheat bread; 1/2 cup cereal, rice or pasta (6-8 servings)
- Vegetables. One cup of raw leafy green vegetables or 1/2 cup raw or cooked vegetables (4-5 servings)
- Fruits. One medium fruit, 1/2 cup fresh or frozen fruit or 4 ounces of juice (4-5 servings)
- Dairy. One cup milk, one cup yogurt, or 1 1/2 ounces cheese (2-3 servings)
- Lean Meat, Poultry and Fish. 1 ounce cooked poultry, seafood or one egg (6 servings or less)
- Nuts, Seeds and Legumes. 1/3 cup nuts, 2 tablespoons seeds, or 1/2 cup cooked beans (4-5 servings per week)
- Fats and Oils. 1 teaspoon margarine, 1 tablespoon mayonnaise or 2 tablespoons salad dressing (2-3 servings)
Alcohol and Caffeine
Drinking too much alcohol can increase your blood pressure, so follow the recommendation of two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. The DASH diet also does not address caffeine consumption, because the effect of caffeine on blood pressure remains unclear. However, because caffeine causes blood pressure to temporarily rise, you may want to limit your overall intake.
Changing Your Diet
Following the DASH diet results in a healthier diet and usually lowers blood pressure, but only if you stick with it. However, you may struggle with changing your current diet to meet the DASH recommendations. For the best results, make changes slowly to adjust better.
Advice or recommendations are for informational or educational purposes only, not a substitute for a visit or consultation with your doctor.
Consult your doctor before beginning any diet or exercise program.
BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee members can access wellness-related discounts on fitness products, gym memberships, healthy eating and more through Blue365®. BCBST members can also use tools and resources to help improve health and well-being by logging into BlueAccess and going to the in the Member Wellness Center under the Managing Your Health tab.