DASH Diet Helps to Reduce High Blood Pressure

Medications and exercise are strategies that can be used to help reduce high blood pressure. Diet also has a role to play in treating hypertension and prehypertension, and the DASH diet is an effective way to help lower blood pressure.

Hypertension or high blood pressure is defined as systolic pressure of 140 or higher and  diastolic pressure of 90 or more. Prehypertension is diagnosed when the patient’s systolic pressure is 120 or higher and the diastolic pressure reading is 90 or higher.

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, and this eating program can provide results, including increased brain function, very quickly. Some people who have adopted the DASH diet report seeing lower blood pressure in about two weeks.

How the DASH Diet Works

A person who is eating 2,000 calories per day on the DASH diet would eat the following types of foods:

Grain Products
Seven or eighth servings per day is recommended. A serving is equal to a slice of bread or a cup of ready-to-eat cereal. For cooked rice, pasta or cereal, 1/2 cup is equal to a serving.

Meat, Poultry and Fish

No more than two servings of this type of food per day. A serving is approximately three ounces or lean meat, skinless chicken or fish.

Fruits and Vegetables

Four or five servings of fruits and the same amount of vegetables should be consumed daily, according to the DASH diet guidelines. A serving of fruit is equal to a medium piece of fruit, 1/4 cup of dried fruit or 1/2 cup of fresh, frozen or canned fruit. Six ounces of fruit juice is also considered a serving.

A serving of vegetables is six ounces of vegetable juice or 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables. A one-cup serving of raw leafy vegetables also counts as a serving.

Dairy Products

This eating plan includes low-fat milk and dairy products. Two or three servings per day are included on the list. A cup of yogurt, eight ounces of milk or 1 1/2 oz. of cheese are considered to be a serving.

Beans, Nuts and Seeds

These foods have a place in the DASH diet. Four or five servings per week should be consumed. A serving of one of these foods is made up of 1/2 cup of cooked beans, 1/3 cup of nuts or 1 Tablespoon of seeds.

Fats and Oils

A certain amount of fat is required to stay healthy, and this eating plan allows for two or three servings each day. A serving of fat or oil is a teaspoon of soft margarine or vegetable oil. A tablespoon of low-fat mayonnaise or light salad dressing is also considered to be a serving.


People following the DASH plan can have five servings of sweets each week. A serving is an eight-ounce serving of lemonade, a tablespoon of sugar, jelly or jam, or 1/2 oz. of jelly beans.

Flaxseed Offers Numerous Health Benefits

Eating a  high-fiber diet for health is important, but don’t forget to include flax seed in your eating plan. This small, brown seed has been around for centuries, and packs quite a punch when it comes to health benefits.

Flaxseed has been grown by humans since 3000 BC. Its health benefits were well known to ancient people. Charlemagne, king of the Franks and the first Holy Roman Emperor, even passed laws requiring those under his rule to eat flaxseed.

Modern consumers are echoing what Charlemagne knew centuries ago: flax seed is good for your health and should be consumed regularly. It can be bought in its original state and used in cooking, and many products, including oatmeal, crackers and frozen waffles, contain this ingredient. Flaxseed is also being used for agricultural purposes; chickens are being fed this product as part of their diet. As a result, they are laying eggs containing a higher level of omega-3 fatty acids.

Why is flaxseed so good for your health? It contains the following:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids, which are “good” fats that help to lower triglyceride levels and increase the “good” cholesterol in the body. Consuming a tablespoon of ground flaxseed provides 1.8 grams of Omega-3s.
  • Lignans, an antioxidant and plant estrogen. It can help to lower the risk of breast cancer. Flaxseed contains a higher level of this substance than other sources, such as green tea, kale and broccoli.
  • Fiber, which helps to maintain regularity and lowers the risk of heart disease. Flaxseed is a source of soluble and insoluble fiber.

Flaxseed and Heart Disease

Making a point of eating flaxseed as part of a healthy diet that can lower the risk of heart disease. It helps by preventing hardening of the arteries and reduces the likelihood of harmful plaque attaching itself to their interior by making white blood cells less sticky. Consuming flaxseed regularly can help to lower the amount of plaque buildup by up to 75 percent.

Flaxseed Reduces Inflammation

The lignans found in flaxseed can help to reduce inflammation in the body. People living with asthma or Parkinson’s Disease may find relief from their symptoms, since eating flaxseeds can help to block pro-inflammatory agents in the body.

Flaxseed for Menopausal Women

Hot flashes are a common symptom associated with menopause. While they are not harmful, they are uncomfortable. Eating two tablespoons of ground flaxseed twice a day can reduce the number of hot flashes by half and reduce the intensity of the ones they do experience as well.

How to Include Flaxseed in Your Diet

Check labels on grain products to check for flaxseed in the ingredients. You can also buy whole or ground flaxseed from bulk food retailers or online. Flaxseed can easily be added to foods like pasta sauce, chili, stews or meatballs and you can reap the health benefits from this food very easily.

High Fiber Diets Lower Heart Disease Risk

Consuming a high fiber diet is something that everyone can do to help reduce their risk of developing heart disease. Other risk factors, such as family history of heart problems, are out of our control, but we all have a say in what kinds of foods we choose to eat.

Adding more fiber to your diet helps to control cholesterol and triglyceride levels within the body. It also helps overall health by giving the immune system a boost. Another important benefit to consuming enough fiber is that these foods help you to feel full longer and may make it easier to avoid snacking on high calorie, high fat foods between meals.

If you decide to add more fiber to your diet, do start slowly. Allow yourself a couple of weeks to bring your daily intake of fiber up to the recommended levels of between 21-25 grams per day for women and 30-38 grams per day for men. You will also want to make sure that you are consuming more fluids throughout the day.

High Fiber Foods

When you want to add high fiber foods, the good news is that you have a variety of great-tasting choices available. Here are some examples:

  • Apples (skin on)
  • Baked beans
  • Bananas
  • Bran flakes
  • Bread (whole wheat)
  • Brown rice
  • Carrots
  • Corn
  • Oatmeal
  • Oranges
  • Popcorn (air popped)
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries

Adding more fiber to your diet is a simple matter of switching to whole wheat bread and brown rice instead of the white variety for these foods. Pack an apple or orange with your lunch every day – and be sure to eat it. Snack on carrot sticks and air-popped popcorn more often.

Before you know it, you will have achieved your goal of adding more fiber to your diet and you will be well on your way to healthier eating and better overall health.

Heart Healthy Diets for Men

Men who want to eat a heart healthy diet should focus their attention on the overall patterns of the food choices they make.

When it comes to eating well, it’s too easy to get bogged down in the details of meal planning.

Foods to Avoid

If your goal is to lower your risk of heart disease, you will want to eat the following types of food less often:

  • Processed meat
  • Red meat
  • Refined gains
  • Sweets

Foods to Include in Your Diet

Instead of eating the foods on the list above, make sure that you are eating these foods instead:

  • Fish
  • Fruits
  • Legumes
  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Olive oil
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains

Since the goal of creating a heart-health diet for men is to consider overall eating patterns, you don’t need to decide that you can’t ever enjoy a thick steak or a hamburger. As long as you are making good choices about what you are eating most of the time, go ahead and eat something that may be a less healthy one occasionally.

Make Small Changes

vegetables for heart healthRather than give your diet a complete overhaul and trying to make too many changes at once, start off by making some small changes. If you start your plan for heart healthy eating by thinking about all the foods you can no longer eat, you are effectively sabotaging your plan before you can get it started. Eating well is a habit, and it takes time to establish a positive one.

There are no “bad” foods. Some food choices are definitely healthier than others, though. If you keep your focus on the bigger picture and you try to avoid processed and high-fat foods most of the time, you will be able to lower your risk of developing heart disease, while not feeling deprived of the foods you enjoy.

Processed Meat Linked to Heart Disease

Do you enjoy eating cold cuts and other types of processed meats? The results of a study conducted by researchers in the United States may make you want to rethink this part of your diet. Eating foods like bacon, sausage and hot dogs regularly can increase your risk of heart disease by 42 percent.

The Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) compiled information taken from 1,600 studies conducted around the world that included approximately 1.2 million people. The results indicated that eating a single hot dog or one or two slices of deli meats daily was enough to make the risk of heart disease jump.

The salt and preservatives used in preparing these foods may be the real reason why these foods aren’t the healthiest choices. High levels of sodium have already been linked to heart disease.

Eating non-processed meats doesn’t appear to carry the same level of risk for heart health. If you enjoy red meat, you can include lean cuts in your diet. Choose healthier cooking methods, like baking, broiling or grilling, more often. You can also make a point of trimming excess fat off before cooking.

Chicken or turkey can also be part of a heart-healthy diet. If you like hamburgers, try adding some variety to your table by picking up some ground turkey and making turkey burgers instead? You may want to add some spices to the meat before cooking to jazz up the patties, since the turkey can be a little bland on its own.

Once the turkey burgers are cooked, serve them on whole wheat buns. Feel free to garnish with some relish, onion, lettuce and tomato for a tasty sandwich that the whole family can enjoy.

You can still eat processed meats occasionally without increasing your risk of developing heart disease. According to the results of the study, eating these types of foods once a week or so won’t lead to heart problems. Keep them in mind for an occasional treat instead of including them in your daily diet if you want to be good to your heart.

Low Sodium Diets Can Lack Taste

Lowering salt intake can be good for your heart, but it doesn’t necessarily taste very good. Low or no-sodium foods are becoming a major consumer trend, but if consumers don’t find these food palatable, they aren’t going to continue buying them.

Many consumers understand that the amount of salt they are ingesting is related to their heart health. They are familiar with the relationship between a high salt intake and high blood pressure.

Most of the salt that North American residents ingest is from processed foods or eating foods purchased from restaurants. Keep in mind that salt can also be present in some beverages, too.

Recommended Daily Salt Intake

The recommended daily amount of salt intake is 2,300 mg. This is equal to approximately one teaspoon. The average person in the United States ingests approximately 3,800 mg on a daily basis, which much higher than what is considered healthy. In the case of a person who eats at fast food restaurants often, the amount of sodium they are eating can be as high as 10,000 mg per day.

Low Sodium Foods Becoming Popular

Food companies are starting to produce products being marketed as low sodium choices to consumers. While some food choices, like potato chips, are well known for having a high level of sodium, this ingredient can be hidden in other food choices. Consumers should get into the habit of reading labels before making a decision to buy a particular item.lower dietary sodium

In March of 2010, Pepsico announced that it would start testing a new, low-sodium salt on Lay’s potato chips. The company’s goal was to reduce the sodium levels for Classic chips by 25 percent. Pepsico had previously made the decision to use sunflower oil, a healthier choice, when making its potato chips. Its goal is to continue making snack foods that customers will enjoy using healthy ingredients.

Sugar and Processed Foods Increase Heart Disease Risk

You can now add sugar to the list of ingredients that are bad for your heart. The results of a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicate that people who eat a diet high in sugar and processed foods have lower levels of “good” (HDL) cholesterol and higher levels of triglycerides.

The study followed a group of 6,000 people. The volunteers were divided into groups according to the amount of added sugars and sweeteners they ingested on a daily basis. The study didn’t consider natural sweeteners, such as those found in fruits and fruit juices.)

Average Level of Sugar Consumption

On average, the study participants ate the equivalent of 21 teaspoons of sugar each day. The group with the highest level of sugar consumption averaged 46 teaspoons of the sweet stuff daily, while the group with the lowest level of sugar consumption came in at an average of 3 teaspoons per day.

In cases where 10 percent of a participant’s diet came from sugar, the likelihood of having a low HDL rate was 50-300 percent higher than for people who were in the group consuming the least amount of sugar.

Increased Sugar Consumption

North American diets are becoming sweeter over time, which is not a good thing. Manufacturers are adding more sugar to their products, partly in response to demand for sweeter products. Processed foods have become more popular with consumers feeling strapped for time in response to increasing demands on their time from work and family obligations.

Foods that you may not consider “sweet” contain sugar, such as ketchup and mayonnaise. This ingredient is also added to prepared soups and spaghetti sauces, as well as baked goods.

If you want to become more aware of sugars in foods, be on the lookout for these ingredients. They are all sugars:

  • Corn syrup
  • Dextrose
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar
  • Maltodextrin
  • Molasses
  • Polydextrose
  • Sucrose

High Carb Intake Linked to Heart Disease in Women

If you are a lady who likes her carbs, you may want to think about how much white bread, pizza and rice you are eating. Foods with a high sugar content can also increase your risk of heart disease, according to the results of a new study. The good news is that eating pasta doesn’t appear to increase the risk of developing heart disease.

The research was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, and scientists have concluded that eating foods with a high glycemic index, such as white bread, cause a woman’s blood sugar to rise rapidly. The spike in blood sugar levels can damage the heart.

Men process carbohydrates in a different way, and don’t have the same health risks when they consume foods with a high glycemic index. What should you be eating for good heart health?

Start by choosing whole grains more often. Switch to 60 percent whole wheat bread and once you get used to its taste, try 100 percent whole wheat. If you like to eat cereal, read the labels to find brands made from whole grains, as opposed to the ones with a high sugar content. Buy brown rice instead of the white variety.

Adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet is another strategy that is good for your heart. Fruits do contain carbs, but since they are absorbed by the body less quickly than foods made with white flour, they don’t increase the risk of heart disease. Again, you can start by making some simple changes to your diet, such as eating fruit at breakfast or eating a salad at lunch or dinner more often.

You are more likely to stick with the positive changes you are making to your eating habits if you start slowly. Even making one small change at a time will pay off over the long term.

Cutting Saturated Fats Alone Will Not Protect Against Heart Disease

Lowering consumption of saturated fats is supposed to help protect against heart disease. Saturated fats are animal fats, and are found in red meat, bacon, butter, cheese and other foods. If your goal is to lower your risk of heart disease by cutting back on saturated fats, be careful what you replace them with.

If you replace saturated fats in your diet with carbohydrates, you will not significantly lower your risk of developing heart disease. A much better, and healthier, strategy is to make a point of eating more polyunsaturated fats by increasing your intake of fish, vegetable oils and nuts.

This strategy can help to lower your risk by up to a very impressive 19 percent.

Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, co-director of the Program in Cardiovascular Epidemiology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, in Boston, Massachusetts, explains: “Saturated fat is not so bad for you that you can replace it with anything and get [a] benefit. The replacement matters.”
nuts and heart health
Dr. Mozaffarian and his team of researchers analyzed data collected from eight clinical trials involving 13,000 participants who replaced the saturated fat they were consuming with polyunsaturated fat. For every five percent in total calories the participants increased their consumption of polyunsaturated fats, their risk of heart disease decreased by 10 percent.

According to Dr. Mozaffarian, “With all the focus on fat and saturated fat and cholesterol, we’ve put a lot of junk in our diet instead. What a person needs to do is to eat the appropriate amount of calories, and eat a healthy, balanced diet.”

DASH Diet Can Help to Improve Brain Function

People who follow the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet reap the benefits of improved cardiovascular health, and the results of a new study conducted by researchers at Duke University indicate that it may help to improve brain functioning, too.

The study, the results of which were published in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association, followed a total of 124 people. The men and women who participated all had been diagnosed with high blood pressure. The average age was 52 years old, and most of the group were at least 15 pounds overweight.

Participants were divided into three groups. One of the groups were instructed to follow the DASH diet. This eating plan includes fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy products. Carbohydrates make up a large portion of the daily calories, and high-cholesterol foods are avoided.

The second group of participants in the study followed the DASH diet in conjunction with a program of regular aerobic exercise. They worked out three times a week for 30 minutes at a time, and the sessions were supervised by research staff. The third group in the study didn’t follow any particular diet or exercise routine.

Cognitive Ability Test Results

To measure how diet and exercise can affect a person’s mental functioning, the participants in the study were asked to perform certain tasks using a paper and pencil.

When the four-month study concluded, test results showed the participants who were in the group following the DASH diet in combination with aerobic exercise had an average increase in brain function of 30 percent.

The participants who followed the DASH diet in combination with exercise lost an average of 19 pounds during the four months they were involved in the study. Their systolic blood pressure (the top number of the blood pressure reading) was lowered by an average of 16 points, while the diastolic pressure (the bottom number on the reading) went down by an average of 10 points.