Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension or DASH Plan
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects more than 65 million Americans. This means a staggering proportion of 1 out 3 Americans. There are also 59 million Americans who are said to have prehypertension or borderline hypertension.
When blood courses through the blood vessels at abnormally high pressures, the arterial walls harden, the heart works so hard and the delicately tiny vessels in the brain, eyes, heart and kidneys may rupture and hemorrhage to cause stroke, blindness, heart attack and kidney failure.
The optimum blood pressure should be no lower than 120/80 mm Hg. A blood pressure of 120/80 to 140/89 is already prehypertension while blood pressure of 140/90 and higher is full-blown hypertension.
Yet hypertension, according to research studies, has been shown to be prevented and lowered by following the DASH diet or the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension plan. The DASH diet, however, is only the dietary part which, in itself could not lower or prevent hypertension. It should be done in conjunction with other steps such as:
moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes each day on most days of the week
maintaining a healthy weight and
moderation, if not abstinence, from alcohol.
What is the DASH Diet?
In a nutshell, the DASH diet is one largely composed of healthier foods. Carbohydrates come from whole grains and not sugars. Proteins come from nuts, beans and white meat and rarely from red meat. Low-fat and fat-free dairy products are also allowed. Fruits and vegetables dominate the diet to supply many nutrients, particularly those which are actively involved in lowering blood pressure such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, protein and fiber.
The DASH Diet is also known for what are obviously absent-the blood pressure-increasing mineral sodium, as well as sugar, trans fats and cholesterol.
How is the DASH Diet applied?
The DASH eating plan does not have specific recipes to follow. It only suggests the number of servings of each food group that one must eat every day. The number of servings would of course depend on the total number of calories one is allowed per day. This daily caloric intake is, in turn dependent on one’s age and level of physical activity.
What you will readily notice with the DASH Diet is the very minimal presence of sodium. There are only two levels of sodium allowed in the DASH Diet-2,300 mg and 1,500 mg. The abundance of fruits and vegetables in the diet keep sodium levels low.
The Steps Involved in Following the DASH Diet
The first step involved before embarking on the DASH Diet is determining your Daily Caloric Needs. This is quite easy as you only have to key in your age and your level of physical activity and refer to a chart.
Once you have the figure for your Daily Calorie Needs, the second step would be to refer to the DASH eating plan chart and just look for the closest calorie level to yours. This step basically tells you how many servings of each food group you are allowed to take in every day so you can change your eating pattern.