February is national heart awareness month; the so-called silent killer, high blood pressure or hypertension affects from 32-38 percent of the people in Tennessee and can lead to conditions like vision loss, heart attack, kidney disease and a stroke.
One change that can help reduce blood pressure is a change in diet. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute promotes its Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) to mark each national heart awareness month.
Conventional wisdom calls for reducing salt from one’s diet, yet the DASH plan emphasizes vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy foods — and moderate amounts of whole grains, fish, poultry and nuts in addition to daily maximum intake of 2,300 mg of sodium in the standard diet plan.
The payoff, according to researchers, can be a drop over time of eight to 14 BP points.
What to eat
At a glance, the DASH diet calls for daily intakes of 6-8 servings of grain (whole grain is preferred), 4-5 servings of veggies, 4-5 servings of fruit (fresh, canned or juiced), 6 servings of lean meat and 2-3 servings of fats and oils and the same servings of dairy. Limit your weekly intake of sweets to five servings of sweets and try to get 4-5 servings of nuts, seeds or legumes each week.
Tips for success
The Mayo Clinic reminds people that healthy eating isn’t an all or nothing proposition. Do what you can, but strict adherence is counterproductive.
Some things you can do to make a change to a healthier diet include gradual changes, self rewards for accomplishments, forgive slip-ups, add physical activity and find support from others.
DASH diet for a day
It can be difficult to get a handle on what a healthier diet might look like. Here is an example from the Mayo Clinic to get you started with DASH.
Breakfast: Start the day with a whole wheat bagel with two tablespoons of no-salt peanut butter, an orange and a cup of fat-free milk.
Lunch includes a spinach salad (4 cups of spinach, one pear, half mandarin orange sections, 1/3 cup almonds and 2 tablespoons red wine vinaigrette). Top the meal off with a dozen reduced sodium crackers and a cup of fat-free milk.
Dinner is a 3 oz. filet of cod, ½ cup brown rice with vegetables, ½ cup steamed green beans, a sourdough roll and top it off with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and a cup of fresh berries for dessert.
Snacks can be a cup of fat-free yogurt and four vanilla wafers.
The Center for Disease Control data suggests that from 32-38 percent of Tennesseans over the age of 20 had high blood pressure as of 2017. Medicare and Medicaid Services indicates that from 2013-15, between 7.8-8.4 percent of the population age 65 and older in Coffee County were hospitalized for high blood pressure related problems.