According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of adult Americans are taking medication for a blood pressure imbalance. Normal blood pressure is when the systolic pressure is <120 mm Hg and the diastolic pressure is <80 mg Hg. High blood pressure is when it creeps up to 130 over 80 or higher.
While medications can be life-saving in some cases, dietary changes can go a long way in helping to maintain healthy levels of blood pressure. One of the most widely studied diets shown to help is known as the "dietary approach to stop hypertension" or the DASH diet. In fact, according to a 2020 review of 17 different studies looking at the DASH diet, even modest adherence to this diet helped study participants manage healthy blood pressure levels.
A typical western diet is often high in sodium which can contribute to higher levels of blood pressure. The DASH diet not only encourages a reduction of sodium intake based on individual health needs, but also emphasises an increased intake of fresh produce, moderate amounts of whole grains, fish, poultry and healthy fats. Eating a variety of foods rich in nutrients that can also help to lower blood pressure including potassium, calcium and magnesium.
These are the primary components of the DASH diet where individual circumstances would always need to be considered and adjustments made accordingly:
6 to 8 servings of gluten free grains per day
4 to 5 servings of vegetables per day
4 to 5 servings of fruits per day
4 to 5 servings of nuts, seeds, and legumes per week
2 to 3 servings of healthy fats per day
1x 6-ounce serving or less of lean meat, poultry or fish per day
Processed foods, especially meats, are significantly reduced or eliminated with the DASH diet, along with minimising refined sugar, alcohol and caffeine intake.
By promoting a healthy way of eating, the benefits of the DASH diet extend beyond just lowering blood pressure and include supporting the prevention of osteoporosis, heart disease, diabetes and stroke. It has also associated with promoting a healthy body weight, supporting optimal cholesterol levels, and improved blood sugar control.