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High Blood Pressure: Using the DASH Diet


Table of Contents


Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.   High Blood Pressure: Using the DASH Diet

Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.  What is DASH?
Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.  Why should you use DASH?
Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.  How can you make DASH a habit?
Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.  Where to go from here

What? - What is the medical information or key concepts related to the action?  What is DASH?

DASH is an eating plan that can help lower your blood pressure. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. Hypertension is high blood pressure.

The DASH eating plan focuses on foods that are high in calcium, potassium, and magnesium. These nutrients can lower blood pressure. The foods that are highest in these nutrients are fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, nuts, seeds, and beans. Taking calcium, potassium, and magnesium supplements instead of eating these foods does not have the same effect.

The DASH eating plan
Food Recommended servings Examples

Low-fat and fat-free milk and milk products

2 to 3 servings a day

A serving is 8 ounces of milk, 1 cup of yogurt, or 1 1/2 ounces of cheese.

Fruits

4 to 5 servings a day

A serving is 1 medium-sized piece of fruit, 1/2 cup chopped or canned fruit, 1/4 cup dried fruit, or 4 ounces (1/2 cup) of fruit juice. Choose fruit more often than fruit juice.

Vegetables

4 to 5 servings a day

A serving is 1 cup of lettuce or raw leafy vegetables, 1/2 cup of chopped or cooked vegetables, or 4 ounces (1/2 cup) of vegetable juice. Choose vegetables more often than vegetable juice.

Grains

6 to 8 servings a day

A serving is 1 slice of bread, 1 ounce of dry cereal, or 1/2 cup of cooked rice, pasta, or cooked cereal. Try to choose whole-grain products as much as possible.

Meat, poultry, fish

No more than 2 servings a day

A serving is 3 ounces, about the size of a deck of cards

Legumes, nuts, seeds

4 to 5 servings a week

A serving is 1/3 cup of nuts, 2 tablespoons of seeds, or 1/2 cup cooked dried beans or peas.

Fats and oils

2 to 3 servings a day

A serving is 1 teaspoon of soft margarine or vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise, or 2 tablespoons of salad dressing.

Sweets and added sugars

5 servings a week or less

A serving is 1 tablespoon of jelly or jam, 1/2 cup of sorbet, or 1 cup of lemonade.

The DASH eating plan is one of several lifestyle changes your doctor may recommend.

Your doctor may also want you to decrease the amount of sodium you eat. Lowering sodium while following the DASH plan can lower blood pressure even further than just the DASH plan alone. For good health, less sodium is best. Try to eat less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day. If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease, if you are African-American, or if you are older than age 50, try to limit the amount of sodium you eat to less than 1,500 mg a day.1

For more information on nutrition for high blood pressure, see Blood Pressure: Nutrition Tips and DASH Diet Sample Menu.

Test Your Knowledge

  1. Taking calcium, potassium, and magnesium supplements will lower my blood pressure just as well as the DASH plan will.

    1. True

      This answer is incorrect.

      Calcium, potassium, and magnesium are nutrients that lower blood pressure. It's good to get these nutrients from a balanced diet. Taking supplements does not have the same effect.

    2. False

      This answer is correct.

      Calcium, potassium, and magnesium are nutrients that lower blood pressure. It's good to get these nutrients from a balanced diet. Taking supplements does not have the same effect.


  2. Fat-free milk is an important part of the DASH plan.

    1. True

      This answer is correct.

      A glass of fat-free milk has only 80 calories and no fat and is packed with nutrients that lower blood pressure.

    2. False

      This answer is incorrect.

      A glass of fat-free milk has only 80 calories and no fat and is packed with nutrients that lower blood pressure.


Why? - Why the action is important?  Why should you use DASH?

Not eating enough potassium, calcium, and magnesium may help cause high blood pressure. These nutrients come from fruits, vegetables, and dairy products.

Researchers believe that it is the combination of 8 to 10 servings a day of fruits and vegetables and 3 servings of low-fat or nonfat dairy products that causes the DASH eating plan to lower blood pressure. Simply taking calcium, potassium, and magnesium supplements does not lower blood pressure.

Good sources of potassium, calcium, and magnesium

Nutrient

Good sources

Potassium

All fresh fruits and vegetables

Calcium

Low-fat and nonfat dairy products

Magnesium

Legumes (cooked dried beans and peas), seeds, nuts, halibut, milk, yogurt, brown rice, potatoes, tomatoes, bananas, watermelon, leafy green vegetables

Test Your Knowledge

  1. A balanced, low-fat eating plan that contains 8 to 10 servings each day of fresh fruits and vegetables and 3 servings each day of low-fat or fat-free dairy foods can help me lower my high blood pressure.

    1. True

      This answer is correct.

      Many people don't get enough potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Eating 8 to 10 servings each day of fresh fruits and vegetables and 3 servings each day of low-fat or nonfat dairy products can lower blood pressure.

    2. False

      This answer is incorrect.

      Many people don't get enough potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Eating 8 to 10 servings each day of fresh fruits and vegetables and 3 servings each day of low-fat or nonfat dairy products can lower blood pressure.


How? - Learn the steps involved in taking action.  How can you make DASH a habit?

Setting goals

You'll have more success in changing your eating habits if you make a plan. The plan should include long-term and short-term goals as well as ideas for getting past barriers—things that might get in the way of changing your eating habits.

What is your long-term goal? A long-term goal is something you want to reach in 6 to 12 months. When you have high blood pressure, the long-term goal is to lower your blood pressure to a specific level. Talk to your doctor about what your specific long-term goal should be.

What are the short-term goals that will help you reach your long-term goal? Short-term goals keep you going day to day. They are usually goals you hope to reach tomorrow or next week.

Look at the DASH eating plan. Come up with a short-term goal that looks pretty easy. For example, you might decide that your first short-term goal will be to eat 4 servings of vegetables every day. As soon as you've made those extra vegetables a habit, you can add another short-term goal.

Eating with DASH

Here are some ideas for eating with the DASH plan:

Many people find that it helps to write down everything they eat every day. That way they can easily see how much of each food group they've eaten and where they need to add or cut back tomorrow.

A registered dietitian can work with you to change your eating habits and help you plan menus that follow the DASH eating style. Ask your doctor to recommend someone.

Quick Tips: Adding Fruits and Vegetables to Your Diet
DASH Diet Sample Menu
Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition. Healthy Eating: Starting a Plan for Change

Dealing with barriers and slip-ups

Take the time to think about what things could get in the way of your success. These are called barriers. And by thinking about them now, you can plan ahead for how to deal with them if they happen.

An example of a barrier might be eating in restaurants. If you do that a lot, you may want to plan ahead for how you will stay on your DASH plan when you eat out. Possible solutions could include:

It's perfectly normal to try something, stop it, and then get mad at yourself. Lots of people have to try and try again before they reach their goals.

Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition. Healthy Eating: Overcoming Barriers to Change

Getting support

Having a lot of support can make it easier to change your eating habits. For example, if family members tell you that they love how you're getting healthier, you may be motivated to keep up the good work. Here are some other ways to get support:

Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition. Healthy Eating: Getting Support When Changing Your Eating Habits

Staying with it

It can be frustrating to start a new project like healthy eating and then have to stop because something gets in the way—illness, travel, or even just boredom. Your goal is to get back in the habit and make it a routine part of your life.

Remember that you can't create a habit overnight. Keep at it, even if you slip up along the way. It can take as long as 3 months of repetition to form a habit, so every day is a step in the right direction.

When you slip up, don't get mad at yourself or feel guilty. Think of it as a learning experience. Figure out what happened. Why did you stop? Think of ways to get yourself going again. Learn from your slip-ups so that you can keep on toward your goal of healthy eating.

Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition. Healthy Eating: Staying With Your Plan

Test Your Knowledge

  1. The best way to deal with barriers is to wait until they happen and then worry about how to get around them.

    1. True

      This answer is incorrect.

      By thinking about barriers ahead of time, you can plan ahead for how to deal with them if they happen. And then you'll be more likely to have success in getting around them.

    2. False

      This answer is correct.

      By thinking about barriers ahead of time, you can plan ahead for how to deal with them if they happen. And then you'll be more likely to have success in getting around them.


Where? - Other resources and organizations that can help you take action.  Where to go from here

Now that you have read these tips on following the DASH eating plan, you are ready to change your eating habits to lower your high blood pressure.

For more sample menus and recipes for the DASH eating plan, contact the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

More information about high blood pressure can be found in the topic:

References

Citations

  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Agriculture (2010). Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, 7th ed. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Also available online: http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2010.asp.

Other Works Consulted

Credits for High Blood Pressure: Using the DASH Diet

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Rhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
Last Revised April 5, 2013

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