July 2, 2019

High Blood Pressure: Could Diet Replace Medication?

High Blood Pressure diet

High Blood Pressure: Could Diet Replace Medication?

Researchers suggest that people with high blood pressure, or hypertension, may see a similar or greater reduction in systolic blood pressure after following a Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) and low-salt diet as people who take antihypertensive drugs.

Study co-author Stephen Juraschek — who works in the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA, as well as the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD — and colleagues say that their findings suggest that a change in diet should be the first line of defense for adults at increased risk of high blood pressure.

Everyone talks about DASH Diet, but what exactly is it?

Today there are a plethora of diets to choose from that claim to lower blood pressure. But with so many different diets and fads to choose from, which is the best for you? In today’s blog, I want to take a look at the DASH diet. DASH is an acronym for, “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension”. One question we want to consider is, “Does a dietary approach arrest, and reverse hypertension?” We will answer that question after reviewing the DASH diet.

What Is High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure is blood pressure higher than 140/90 mmHg** Blood pressure is usually measured in millimeters of mercury, or mm-Hg and pre-hypertension is blood pressure between 120/80 and 139/89 mm-Hg.

But high blood pressure can be prevented and lowered if you take these steps: Follow a healthy eating plan, that includes foods low in sodium. Maintain a healthy weight and be moderately physically active for at least 2 and a half hours per week. If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation. If you already have high blood pressure and your doctor has prescribed medicine, take your medicine, as directed, and follow these steps.

Dash Diet – How does it work?

When following a specific diet some require that you buy this supplement, that powder, and cleanse. This can be costly to your wallet and can actually add more stress and cause you to quit before you see any changes. In this case, you become more frustrated than before.

With the DASH diet eating plan there are no special foods and no hard fast rules to follow. Seems simple already. It seems that hard fast rules are harder to follow, which is another tipping point for people. I myself find that I can only maintain the hard fast rules for so long and then I crash. The end result is much worse than when I started.

The DASH eating plan is rich in fruits, vegetables, fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds, and nuts. It also contains less sodium, sweets, added sugars, and beverages containing sugar; fats; and red meats than the typical American diet. This heart-healthy way of eating is also lower in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol and rich in nutrients that are associated with lowering blood pressure—mainly potassium, magnesium, calcium, protein, and fiber.

Even if you are vegan or vegetarian you can follow the DASH diet. Beans, seeds, nuts are all important parts of the DASH diet. Substitutions of meat/fish/poultry can be made using any acceptable protein-rich non-animal products. The DASH diet itself is a compromise, designed to provide the blood pressure-reducing benefits of healthy vegetarian and vegan diets in an eating plan designed to be acceptable to a broad range of people.

Making A DASH For It:

The DASH diet outline how many servings are needed each day from various food groups, based on calorie levels. The standard DASH plan is based on 2,000 calories a day. If you are trying to lose weight and want to eat fewer calories, the 1600-calorie version might be a better place to start. The following chart lists the food groups and daily servings recommended by the DASH diet, as well as portion sizes and tips to incorporate them into your meals.

Again we must reiterate the DASH eating plan requires no special foods and has no hard-to-follow recipes. It simply calls for a certain number of daily servings from various food groups. The number of servings depends on the number of calories you’re allowed each day.

Your calorie level depends on your age and, especially, how active you are. Think of this as an energy balance system—if you want to maintain your current weight, you should take in only as many calories as you burn by being physically active. If you need to lose weight, eat fewer calories than you burn or increase your activity level to burn more calories than you eat.

Caloric Chart For The DASH Diet:

Again think of food as fuel. If you are driving long distances you will need to fill the tank more often than if you are just going for a drive to a friends house. Too many times we see eating as a comfort, a release, an excuse. Eating is a very social activity so we often overeat causing ourselves to increase our weight. I had to mentally make the switch over because too many times I would find myself eating when I was not hungry.

What is your physical activity level?

  • Sedentary? You do only light physical activity that is part of your typical day-to-day routine.
  • Moderately active? You do physical activity equal to walking about 1 to 3 miles a day at 3 to 4 miles per hour, plus light physical activity.
  • Active? You do physical activity equal to walking more than 3 miles per day at 3 to 4 miles per hour, plus light physical activity.

Depending on your physical activity there is a corresponding amount for caloric intake. The more active a person is the more calories they will burn throughout the day. The less active you are the fewer calories you need to consume. It goes back to the gas tank analogy.

Shaking Off The Salt:

Choose and prepare foods with less sodium and salt, and don’t bring the salt shaker to the table.

Be creative—try herbs, spices, lemon, lime, vinegar, wine, and salt-free seasoning blends in cooking and at the table. And, because most of the sodium that we eat comes from processed foods, be sure to read food labels to check the amount of sodium in different food products. Aim for foods that contain 5 percent or less of the Daily Value of sodium. Foods with 20 percent or more Daily Value of sodium are considered high. These include baked goods, certain cereals, soy sauce, and some antacids —the range is wide.

Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day:

Making changes to your lifestyle is not easy and it does not happen overnight. Make these changes over a couple of days or weeks to give yourself a chance to adjust and make them part of your daily routine.

Add a serving of vegetables at lunch one day and dinner the next, and add fruit at one meal or as a snack. Increase your use of fat-free and low-fat milk products to three servings a day. Limit lean meats to 6 ounces a day—3 ounces a meal, which is about the size of a deck of cards. If you usually eat large portions of meats, cut them back over a couple of days—by half or a third at each meal. Include two or more vegetarian-style, or meatless, meals each week.

Increase servings of vegetables, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, and cooked dry beans. Try casseroles and stir-fry dishes, which have less meat and more vegetables, grains, and dry beans. For snacks and desserts, use fruits or other foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, sugar, and calories—for example, unsalted rice cakes; unsalted nuts or seeds; raisins; graham crackers; fat-free, low-fat, or frozen yogurt; popcorn with no salt or butter added; or raw vegetables. Use fresh, frozen, or low-sodium canned vegetables and fruits.

Our Final Thoughts:

The best way to combat high blood pressure is with lifestyle modifications. Always remember that at times we will have setbacks. But even with occasional setbacks, we do not want to through in the towel and quite. Every day will present its own challenges. If possible join an online support group. Having compassionate people around you to encourage you is a must. We do not want to surround ourselves with people who question why we are even trying. We must try for our health depends upon it.

The DASH diet has proven that it can reduce high blood pressure if the guidelines are followed. it isn’t a cabbage soup fade to losing weight only to gain it back again. No DASH is sensible and it is not so much a diet as it is a lifestyle food and changing the relationship we have with food. They say every journey begins with a single step. I encourage you to take that first step, enjoy the journey, and most of all be patient and kind to yourself as you make these changes.


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