DASH Your Way to a Healthier Heart

February is American Heart Month. It’s a time to bring awareness to heart disease and stroke, the number one killer in the United States, so you and the people you love don’t become a statistic.dash diet

Many people are not aware of the DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), recommended by the National Institutes of Health.

In recent DASH studies, adding fruits, vegetables and dairy products lowered blood pressure readings – even when the sodium was as high as 3000 mg per day! Every millimeter the blood pressure falls reduces the risk of heart attack and strokes for people with high blood pressure. So believe it, small changes will get you big results. Your everyday decisions matter.

The DASH “diet” is based on an eating plan rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, and low-fat or non-fat dairy.  The eating plan follows heart healthy guidelines to limit saturated fat and cholesterol. It focuses on increasing intake of foods rich in nutrients that are expected to lower blood pressure, mainly minerals (like potassium, calcium, and magnesium), protein, and fiber.

The DASH Nutrition Numbers

  • Total fat 27% of calories
  • Saturated fat 6% of calories
  • Protein 18% of calories
  • Carbohydrate 55% of calories
  • Sodium 1500-2,300 mg
  • Potassium 4,700 mg
  • Calcium 1,250 mg
  • Magnesium 500 mg
  • Cholesterol 150 mg
  • Fiber 30 g

Before you get out your calculators or press the panic button, follow these simple tips to get started:

  • Record what you eat on paper or use an online program
  • Make half your plate veggies with lunch and dinner
  • Eat a piece of fruit with breakfast and lunch
  • Eat a variety of foods, animal- and vegetable-based proteins
  • Don’t eat between meals, unless you feel hungry; Try to go for a high-protein, low-fat foods like low-fat cottage cheese with red pepper strips
  • Cut way back on eating meals you didn’t make unless you know the sodium content
  • Limit full-fat cheese and fatty meats (sources of saturated fat)

If you want some more help, a dietitian can evaluate your eating habits and make recommendations in line with DASH. You should also search the Internet for DASH-friendly recipes.

The DASH eating plan has been proven to lower blood pressure in just two weeks. Best response came in people whose blood pressure was only moderately high, including those with pre-hypertension. For people with more severe hypertension, who may not be able to eliminate medication, the DASH diet can help improve response to medication.

If you know someone who would benefit from this information on preventing heart disease, please share it. This article is part of a series on simple things everyone can do to keep their heart healthy and strong.

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