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What Is the DASH Diet?

What Is the DASH Diet?

Lifestyle modifications can play a big role in safely lowering your blood pressure levels. For many people, regular exercise, stress management, and dietary changes are enough to see noticeable results with your blood pressure. 

Dr. Muthu Velusamy and our team at Cardiovascular Institute of America in Tampa and Lutz, Florida, often encourage patients with hypertension to try the DASH diet to reduce high blood pressure. New to the DASH diet? Here’s what you need to know.

Basics of the DASH diet

The DASH diet — which stands for dietary approaches to stop hypertension — isn’t a fad diet that overpromises and underdelivers. It’s a research-backed approach to making dietary changes that reduce blood pressure. DASH is more of an eating plan than a strict or restrictive diet. 

The DASH diet includes…

The DASH diet focuses on foods that are rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium. All of these nutrients help regulate your blood pressure. 

Potassium is known for reducing muscle cramps, but it also helps relax the walls of your blood vessels. Researchers have found that low potassium levels can increase your risk of both hypertension and heart attack. You can get potassium from dark leafy greens, dried fruit, beans, lentils, bananas, potatoes, acorn squash, and broccoli. 

Magnesium also helps regulate blood pressure levels. Consuming anywhere from 500-1000 mg of magnesium a day may reduce your blood pressure as much as 5.6/2.8 mm Hg. Find magnesium in avocados, nuts, seeds, dark chocolate, tofu, and whole grains. 

Calcium reduces blood pressure by increasing vascular volume. Get calcium in dairy products, dark leafy greens, fortified cereals, and canned salmon with the bones.

The DASH diet avoids…

This diet plan limits your intake of sodium, saturated fat, and added sugars. Too much sodium increases your blood pressure by drawing more fluids into your blood. The DASH diet aims to keep your sodium level intake at or below 2,300 mg a day.

A typical day on the DASH diet

A diet with reduced sodium isn’t doomed to be bland. There are plenty of healthy ways to flavor your food without relying on salt. Fresh herbs, for instance, can deliver flavor and nutrients without the added salt.

A typical day includes:

The DASH diet allows for up to five sweet servings, but keep the serving size in mind. For example, if you eat jam on your whole wheat toast, one serving is one tablespoon. You may find that it’s easier to omit the sweets to stay within your calorie budget. 

The DASH diet can work with a variety of caloric plans, including 1,200 calorie plans, 1,800 calorie plans, and 2,000 calorie plans. Dr. Velusamy works with you to determine the specific details of your DASH diet, including how many calories you need and your target sodium intake.

Tip: When you meal plan, keep an eye out for sneaky sources of salt. Processed foods, including canned soup, are notorious for high sodium content. Choose low-sodium meal options or make your own foods so you can control your sodium levels. 

How fast does the DASH diet work?

The DASH diet can create noticeable differences in as little as two weeks. However, your results depend on how digilent you are with your diet. You can further support your heart health and lower your blood pressure by exercising regularly. The American Heart Association recommends that adults receive 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week.

Medication can lower your blood pressure, but it’s not the only option. If you have hypertension and you’re interested in controlling it with lifestyle modifications such as the DASH diet, call Cardiovascular Institute of America or book a consultation online today.

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