Getting Started: The DASH Diet

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is referred to as a “silent killer” because it can develop slowly over time without any signs or symptoms, meaning it can often go unnoticed. Hypertension has been linked to a number of other diseases and while it can be treated with medications, they can sometimes come with complications and side effects.

Rather than treating their hypertension with pills more and more people are adopting the DASH Diet, which has been proven to lower blood pressure naturally through healthy eating.

What is the DASH diet?

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension and the diet was first developed in the 1990s with the help of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in order to treat high blood pressure. The DASH Diet is a balanced plan that incorporates large amounts of vegetables, fruits, low fat dairy products, and moderate amounts of whole grains, meats, nuts, legumes, and oils. The overall aim of the DASH diet is to increase one’s intake of nutrients like potassium, calcium, and magnesium and lower sodium intake as both of these changes have a positive effect on hypertension.

There are two types of DASH diets, the Standard DASH diet and the Low-Sodium DASH diet. The standard DASH diet follows the Dietary Guidelines for American’s sodium recommendation by allowing up to 2,300 mgs a day, while the Low-Sodium version abides by the American Heart Association’s recommendation of just 1,500 mgs a day. Both plans are known to be effective however the lower your sodium intake is, the more your blood pressure will fall. It’s best to consult with your doctor about which version of the DASH diet would best suit your needs.

Although the DASH diet has been known to lower blood pressure in as little as 14 days, it is viewed as a lifestyle change rather than a temporary diet and patients are encouraged to stay with the diet in order to continue managing their blood pressure. Since its development, the DASH diet has been endorsed by U.S. Department of Health, the American Heart Association, and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and has been named the number one diet by the U.S. News & World Report for eight consecutive years.

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