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Fight High Blood Pressure with the DASH Diet

February 4, 2021

Hopefully, you already have a basic understanding of what the DASH diet is. DASH stands for “Dietary Approach To Stop Hypertension.” It emphasizes vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy foods.

According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, in 2018, nearly half a million deaths in the United States included hypertension as a primary or contributing cause. And only about 1 in 4 adults with hypertension have their condition under control. 

So, to avoid having to rely on blood pressure medications, we’re going to look at some ways you can incorporate the DASH diet into your life to control high blood pressure.

Make Gradual Changes To Your Diet

Changes in your diet should be made gradually. If you try to change everything at once, you may not be able to adapt to the changes and start deviating from your diet plan.

Here are some tips to help you get started on the DASH diet:

  • If you are eating one or two servings of vegetables a day, just add one serving for lunch and another for dinner.
  • If you are not eating any fruit now or just drinking juice, you should add a serving of fruits to your meals or eat them as snacks.
  • Use half the amount of salad dressing, butter and margarine you are using now.
  • Use fat-free or low-fat condiments.
  • Increase consumption of dairy products gradually to three servings a day. For instance, replace soda, sugar-sweetened tea, and alcohol with milk when having lunch or dinner. To reduce total intake of fat, use fat-free or 1% low-fat dairy products.

Although reducing your intake of salt, refined sugar, fat and caffeine will undoubtedly be good for you in the long run, keep this in mind: Making a drastic change in diet can lead to short-term discomfort – think grinding headaches, leaden sluggishness, embarrassing bloating and a hangry temper. That’s why it’s important to make gradual changes.

Phase Meat Out Of Your Diet

Many people consider meat the main item in their meals. If you want to adopt a heart-healthy diet, you have to treat meat as just a part of your meals, not the main focus.

  • If you are eating a lot of meat now, reduce it by a third or half at every meal.
  • Limit your consumption of meat to two servings, or 6 ounces, a day.
  • Add at least two vegetarian meals every week.
  • Increase consumption of vegetables, pasta, rice and dry beans.

Remember that red meat (such as beef, lamb and pork) can form part of a healthy diet. But eating a lot of red and processed meat probably increases your risk of bowel (colorectal) cancer. Processed meat refers to meat that has been preserved by smoking, curing, salting or adding preservatives. This includes sausages, bacon, ham, salami and pâtés.

For a healthy diet, focus on whole ingredients and vegetables, limiting processed foods.

First Steps To A Healthier You

High blood pressure is dangerous because it makes the heart work too hard, and the high force of the blood flow can harm arteries and organs such as the heart, kidneys, brain and eyes. If uncontrolled, it can lead to heart disease, kidney disease, stroke and blindness.

Some of these tips will help you keep your portion sizes reasonable, while others will help you add nutrients or adapt to something new.

Together, they’ll have a big impact on making your overall diet healthier and more sustainable, without a huge change in your habits.

Dr. Craft-Portion Sizes

Our guide: “Eating Healthier on a Busy Schedule”  is also full of healthy eating tips. Find out some simple changes you can make to eat healthier at home and on the go.

healthy eating