Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects nearly half (47%) of all Americans. Hypertension is defined as the following:
|Blood pressure category||Systolic blood pressure
|Diastolic blood pressure (mmHg)|
|Normal||< 120||< 80|
|Elevated||120 – 129||< 80|
|Stage 2||> 140||> 90|
Having hypertension can be dangerous because it puts you at risk of having a heart attack or stroke, which are the leading causes of death in the United States. However, it is not all doom and gloom when it comes to hypertension, because it can be managed through lifestyle changes such as nutrition.
DASH diet for hypertension
The DASH diet stands for dietary approaches to stop hypertension, and is a dietary plan that is designed to help treat and/or prevent high blood pressure. Nutrients that help to control blood pressure include potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Nutrients that hinder blood pressure control are sodium, saturated fat, and added sugars. By following the DASH diet, it will help limit the intake of harmful nutrients, and increase the intake of blood pressure controlling nutrients.
In the standard diet, sodium intake can exceed 3,400 mg a day. In the DASH diet, sodium is limited to 2,300 mg a day, which is roughly the amount of sodium in 1 teaspoon of table salt. In addition, the diet is rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans and nuts. It limits foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats and full fat dairy products.
|Food group||Recommended servings||Serving size|
|Grains||6-8 servings a day||1 slice of bread, 1-ounce dry cereal, ½ cup cooked rice or pasta|
|Vegetables||4-5 servings a day||1 cup raw leafy greens, ½ cup cut up raw or cooked vegetables, ½ cup vegetable juice|
|Fruits||4-5 servings a day||One medium fruit, ½ cup fresh, frozen, or canned fruit, ½ cup fruit juice|
|Fat free or low-fat dairy||2-3 servings a day||1 cup milk or yogurt, 1 ½ ounces cheese|
|Lean meats, poultry, and fish||6 1-ounce servings or fewer a day||1-ounce cooked meat, poultry, fish, or 1 egg|
|Nuts, seeds, legumes||4-5 servings a week||1/3 cup nuts, 2 tablespoons nut butter, 1 tablespoon seeds, ½ cup cooked legumes|
|Fats and oils||2-3 servings a day||1 teaspoon soft margarine, 1 teaspoon vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon mayo, 2 tablespoons salad dressing|
|Sweets and added sugars||5 servings or fewer a week||1 tablespoon of sugar, jelly, or jam, ½ cup sorbet, 1 cup lemonade|
By following the DASH diet, you are helping to prevent or manage hypertension. In addition, it is an overall healthy diet for others in your family, so it can be easily implemented into your lifestyle. Along with the DASH diet plan, you can implement more movement and exercise into your life for more blood pressure benefits.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hypertension Cascade: Hypertension Prevalence, Treatment and Control Estimates Among U.S. Adults Aged 18 Years and Older Applying the Criteria from the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association’s 2017 Hypertension Guideline—NHANES 2015–2018. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2021. Accessed March 12, 2021.
- DASH eating plan. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/dash-eating-plan. Accessed May 6, 2021.
- 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov. Accessed May 6, 2021.