Hypertension and Diet

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A recent New England Journal of Medicine discussed the treatment of hypertension with dietary changes. While many patients in the United States are on hypertensive medications, newly diagnosed patients should know that there are "lifestyle changes" which can help improve the blood pressure, and which cost less than medications and don't have their side effects.

Steps that you can take to lower your blood pressure include:

  1. Decreasing your intake of salt, listed as sodium on food packages. Surprisingly, many processed foods contain a high amount of sodium, such that consumption of regular portions can lead to excessive daily consumption of salt which will increase your risk of hypertension. In addition, fast food and food served in restaurants may contain very high levels of salt, such that eating out frequently increases your salt consumption well above the daily recommended allowance. While decreasing your salt intake will initially lead to foods tasting much blander, eventually in a couple weeks foods will taste just as good with much less salt.

This may be why major food corporations, such as Campbell's Soup, have been gradually reducing the salt content of their soups. The American heart association recommends limiting salt intake to 1.5 g per day, which is significantly less than the average American consumes.

  1. Eating a diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables. In particular, the Mediterranean diet has been found to have multiple beneficial health effects and can help you lower your blood pressure. The DASH diet (see below) is also highly recommended as a frame work you can use to plan your weekly shopping and meal preparation, and can help you reduce your blood pressure.
  2. Getting regular exercise

How Can I Follow the Dash Diet?

The DASH diet is highly recommended by many physicians, and has the backing of several professional organizations, such as the American Heart Association, and can be found online at http://dashdiet.org/. Following this diet can lower your blood pressure in just 14 days. In addition the DASH diet has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

In addition, there is a DASH action plan book which helps with the preparation of healthy meals, and can be bought online from retailers such as Amazon.com, more information can be found here: http://dashdiet.org/dash_diet_book.asp.

It is comforting to know that even small changes in your diet, and in your exercise routine, can lead to significant improvement in your health. Cutting just 200 calories a day from your diet can lead to the loss of many pounds over the course of the year. If you're concerned about your weight or blood pressure you should consider talking with your doctor or with a nutritional expert as those were monitored on a weight loss or hypertension control program are far more successful. Even if you don't have hypertension, following a low salt diet and adding fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet can you avoid heart disease and other health problems later in life.

Sources:

http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/362/22/2102

http://dashdiet.org/

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