The Diet to Lower Blood Pressure and Lose Weight

The DASH diet is recommended by experts to control hypertension

3-step DASH diet plan
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Are you trying to lower blood pressure and lose weight? You're not alone. High blood pressure affects over 65 million people in the United States. That’s about one in every three adults. And the condition, also known as hypertension, can have serious complications.

If you're overweight, then your doctor may have suggested that you slim down to lower your blood pressure. But there are so many diets to choose from.

There is one diet plan, however, that experts recommend most to help you lower your blood pressure and lose weight. 

The Diet Plan for Lower Blood Pressure and Weight Loss

Medical experts often recommend the DASH diet to lower your blood pressure. The diet can also help you lose weight and improve your sense of health and well being. 

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The DASH diet was developed based on research that evaluated how different eating plans and different types of food affect blood pressure. DASH research also examined how your sodium intake might affect your blood pressure.  

The research revealed that a low-fat diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, lean protein and low-fat dairy can help to lower your blood pressure. Researchers also found that if you eat less sodium and fill your diet with healthy high-fiber foods and more foods with potassium, you'll be more likely to lose weight and lower your blood pressure.

 

3 Steps to Start the DASH Diet Program

If you're ready to lower your blood pressure and lose weight then it's time to start the DASH diet. If you're like many dieters, however, you may feel confused by all of the DASH diet food recommendations and guidelines. So it's smart to break the program down into three small steps.

  1. Reduce your sodium intake
  2. Eat DASH foods
  3. Follow DASH nutrition guidelines

Of course, you can try to tackle the entire DASH program all at once, but if you get overwhelmed, you're more likely to quit.  Instead, try to master one step at a time to create lifelong eating habits for better health.

Step 1: Reduce Salt Intake to Manage Hypertension

If you are ready to start the DASH diet to lower blood pressure, consult with your personal physician to gather important information. Dieters who start the DASH eating plan need to choose a sodium intake of either 2300 mg per day or 1500 mg per day. Your doctor may have a recommendation for the level that is best for you.

For dieters who want to want to lower your blood pressure, the lower sodium level is usually recommended. However, the DASH program recommends that you make changes slowly. So if you are currently not monitoring your salt intake at all, your physician may recommend that you start at the higher level.

Once you know how much sodium to consume, start to reduce the amount of sodium in your diet.

You can do this in two different ways:

  • Use less salt. Table salt is a combination of sodium and chloride. When you add salt to your food, you increase the amount of sodium that you eat. Eat less salt to reduce your sodium intake and stick to the DASH diet.
  • Read food labels. Packaged foods often contain high levels of sodium. Read the Nutrition Facts label on each food that you eat and try to choose foods with less sodium. You'll see the sodium grams listed near the bottom of the label. 

Once you feel comfortable monitoring your sodium intake, then start eat DASH diet foods to lose weight and reduce your blood pressure.

Step 2: DASH Diet Foods to Lower Blood Pressure and Lose Weight

After you reduce the sodium in your diet, then fill your cupboard with DASH diet foods. DASH diet foods are naturally lower in sodium. These healthy foods are also lower in saturated fat and trans fat.

To lower your blood pressure and lose weight on the DASH diet, you should eat:

  • Grains (6-8 servings per day) Healthy whole grains help you to feel full so that you eat less and lose weight. Whole grain foods include oatmeal, whole grain cereal or pasta or brown rice. 
  • Vegetables: (4-5 servings per day) Veggies are naturally low in calories and provide your body with important vitamins and minerals. Many fresh vegetables are also high in fiber. 
  • Fruit: (4-5 servings per day) Fresh fruit is a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth without adding too many calories to your daily diet. Add nutrient-rich berries to your whole grain cereal or carry an apple or banana with you to eat as a snack. 
  • Low-fat dairy (2-3 servings per day) Choose low fat or fat-free milk products while you're on the DASH diet. A cup of skim milk is a single serving of dairy. 
  • Lean meat, fish or poultry (6 servings or less per day) Protein is an important part of the DASH eating plan. Lean meats like chicken provide a healthy dose of protein. But keep in mind that a single serving of meat or poultry is just 3 ounces. DASH dieters can also get protein from eggs, fish or lean meat
  • Nuts, legumes, seeds (4-5 serving per week) Nuts, like almonds or walnuts, can make a great snack. But some processed nut and seed products are high in salt. So choose these snacks wisely and eat just a single serving at snacktime. 
  • Fats and oils (2-3 servings per day) A single serving of fat is just a single tablespoon of oil or margarine or 2 tablespoons of salad dressing. Smart DASH dieters measure their fats to make sure that they are not eating too much. 
  • Sweets and sugars (less than 5 per week) If you add sugar to your coffee or jam to your toast, these count as sugars on the DASH diet. Try to reduce the sugar in your diet when you're on the DASH diet.

Step 3: Follow DASH Diet Nutrition

If you've reduced your sodium intake to recommended levels and filled your daily diet with DASH-friendly foods, then you can monitor your nutrient balance.  Researchers at the National Institutes of Health saw dieters reduce weight and lower blood pressure when they met these nutrition goals:

DASH Diet Meal Plans, DASH Recipes and Tips

Need more tips to follow the DASH diet? You'll find a free guide that is full of meal plans, DASH diet food lists and and recipes at the National Institutes of Health website. You'll also find a 7-day DASH Diet Eating Plan that guides you through a full week's worth of meals. If you want more help, there are other DASH diet guides online and DASH diet books that are available for purchase.  

Remember that the DASH diet is a long term plan to lower your blood pressure and lose weight. It's not a quick diet or fast weight loss plan. Invest as much time as you need to learn about DASH foods and guidelines to improve your health for the long term.

Sources:

Appel, Lawrence, M.D., M.P.H., et al " A Clinical Trial of the Effects of Dietary Patterns on Blood Pressure." New England Journal of Medicine April 1997.

High Blood Pressure. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed: August 21, 2012. http://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/about.htm

Mary Moon, M.D., Interview. August 21, 2012.

Prevention and Treatment of High Blood Pressure. Title of Page. American Heart Association. Accessed: August 21, 2012. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/PreventionTreatmentofHighBloodPressure/Prevention-Treatment-of-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_002054_Article.jsp

What is the DASH Eating Plan? National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Accessed: August 21, 2012.. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/dash/

Your Guide to Lowering Blood Pressure. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Accessed: August 21, 2012. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/resources/heart/hbp-guide-to-lower

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