By Rosanne Rust
As the coauthor of a cookbook for high blood pressure, it seems to make sense to share some blood pressure news with you since it’s High Blood Pressure Education Month. High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects nearly one in three adults and is referred to as the “silent killer” because it often has no signs or symptoms.
Hypertension is a risk factor for several diseases including heart disease, kidney disease and congestive heart failure. It can lead to heart attack or stroke — two of the leading causes of death in the U.S. To find out how your blood pressure rates, you should check in with your doctor every year, where he or she will routinely check your blood pressure at an annual check-up.
The good news is that high blood pressure can be controlled, but unfortunately less than half of the population with high blood pressure has it under control. So what can you do to lower your blood pressure?
- Follow the DASH diet (see below).
- If you are prescribed diet and medication by your physician, follow the directions for both.
- Become more physically active, with your doctor’s approval.
- Lose weight if you are overweight. The best way to lose weight is to reduce portions and eat less. Exercise helps, but you have to reduce caloric intake.
- Have smaller portions and consume less salt and fat. Reducing portions of all foods automatically reduces overall sodium and fat intake.
- Don’t smoke; quit if you do smoke.
- Maintain regular check-ups with your doctor and dietitian.
The DASH diet
DASH, or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, was created from a long-term clinical trial examining a diet’s affect on blood pressure. US News and World Report rated the DASH diet as the No. 1 overall diet three years in a row. The diet’s principles are outlined in Hypertension Cookbook For Dummies, as well as recipes to help you follow DASH. To get started, incorporate these proven tips to reduce blood pressure:
- Add more servings of fruit daily. Fruit is high in potassium, an important mineral in the regulation of blood pressure. Whole fruit also adds fiber to the diet, which helps control hunger and aids you in weight loss.
- Have three servings of low fat dairy daily. The research showed that the group which included low fat dairy had lower blood pressure than the group that only added the fruits and vegetables and followed other principles of the diet. Have a glass of milk in the morning, a yogurt for a midmorning snack or with lunch and a glass of milk before bed.
- Add a variety of vegetables. The best way to enjoy more vegetables is to buy them and cook them at home. There are so many easy ways to prepare vegetables that will taste fantastic — cut them different ways, add two teaspoons of olive oil, and roast, sauté or grill them. Try adding more beans and lentils to your diet as well. Canned beans are higher in sodium, but by choosing reduced sodium brands and rinsing in cold water, you can reduce sodium significantly. Check out dummies.com and type in my name to find kitchen tips and some of my recipes.
Reduce these foods
- Choose smaller portions of lean meats. Red meats are still OK, but choose cuts that are lower in saturated fat — round cuts, sirloin, chuck shoulder and loin cuts). You don’t have to give up beef or pork, but you do want to limit your portion sizes — 3 to 6 ounces typically — and how often you have them. Portions are key. Going to the steakhouse for a special occasion? The 8- or 10-ounce steak is big enough; skip the 16-ouncer and eat two vegetables. Don’t use the salt shaker.
- Reduce all sources of trans fats and saturated fat. Choose oily salad dressings more often and small amounts of creamy ones less often. Limit packaged snack foods — read labels for saturated fat. Limit processed baked goods.
- Cut back on salt. Use smaller amounts in cooking and work on not using the salt shaker at the table. Salt is an acquired taste and your taste buds will get used to being more sensitive to it rather quickly, so be patient the first week of reducing.
- Reduce the sugar in your diet. Sugar does not have a direct impact on blood pressure, but it does contribute calories, which may lead to weight gain if excessive. Since sugar doesn’t provide nutrients, removing sugar calories from your diet is a good place to start.
Rust, a local registered dietitian and author, can be contacted via her website, rustnutrition.com, or by emailing her at email@example.com.