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:
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.
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.