What you eat affects your chances of getting high blood pressure.
A healthy eating plan can both reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure and lower a blood pressure that is already too high.
For an overall eating plan, consider DASH, which stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.”
You can reduce your blood pressure by eating foods that are low in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol, and high in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods.
The DASH eating plan includes whole grains, poultry, fish, and nuts, and has low amounts of fats, red meats, sweets, and sugared beverages.
It is also high in potassium, calcium, and magnesium, as well as protein and fiber. Eating foods lower in salt and sodium also can reduce blood pressure.
The DASH eating plan has more daily servings of fruits, vegetables, and grains than you may be used to eating. Those foods are high in fiber, and eating more of them may temporarily cause bloating and diarrhea.
To get used to the DASH eating plan, gradually increase your servings of fruits, vegetables, and grains.
A good way to change to the DASH eating plan is to keep a diary of your current eating habits. Write down what you eat, how much, when, and why.
Note whether you snack on high-fat foods while watching television or if you skip breakfast and eat a big lunch. Do this for several days. You’ll be able to see where you can start making changes.
If you’re trying to lose weight, you should choose an eating plan that is lower in calories. You can still use the DASH eating plan, but follow it at a lower calorie level.
Again, a food diary can be helpful. It can tell you if there are certain times that you eat but aren’t really hungry or when you can substitute low-calorie foods for high-calorie foods.
Tips on switching to the DASH eating plan:
- Change gradually. Add a vegetable or fruit serving at lunch and dinner.
- Use only half the butter or margarine you do now.
- If you have trouble digesting dairy products, try lactase enzyme pills or drops—they’re available at drugstores and groceries. Or buy lactose-free milk or milk with lactase enzyme added to it.
- Get added nutrients such as the B vitamins by choosing whole grain foods, including whole wheat bread or whole grain cereals.
- Spread out the servings. Have two servings of fruits and/or vegetables at each meal, or add fruits as snacks.
- Treat meat as one part of the meal, instead of the focus. Try casseroles, pasta, and stir-fry dishes. Have two or more meatless meals a week.
- Use fruits or low-fat foods as desserts and snacks.