High blood pressure: The DASH diet ‘significantly’ lowers a high reading – what to eat
High blood pressure: Lifestyle changes to reduce reading
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High blood pressure puts extra strain on your heart and blood vessels so it is vital that you take steps to lower it. Fortunately, you can reverse a high reading by making healthy lifestyle changes. Top of the list is to overhaul your diet.
One of the most well-known dietary strategies for lowering blood pressure is the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) pattern.
The DASH dietary pattern emphasises a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products and reduced saturated and total fat.
In a study published in the journal JAMA, the DASH diet significantly reduced high blood pressure in participants.
It also has been tested in multiple randomised controlled trials in specific populations, including obese hypertensives (a person with high blood pressure) and individuals with type 2 diabetes, both alone and in combination with other lifestyle interventions, with consistent results.
What’s more, the Optimal Macro-Nutrient Intake to Prevent Heart Disease (OmniHeart) trial demonstrated that within a DASH-like dietary pattern, substituting protein for carbohydrate or substituting fat (primarily monounsaturated) for carbohydrate additionally lowered blood pressure.
The OmniHeart trial studied the impact different dietary patterns had on heart disease risk.
What’s included in a DASH diet
According to the Mayo Clinic, a DASH diet includes lots of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products.
“The DASH diet also includes some fish, poultry and legumes, and encourages a small amount of nuts and seeds a few times a week,” explains the health body.
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“You can eat red meat, sweets and fats in small amounts. The DASH diet is low in saturated fat, trans fat and total fat,” it adds.
Other key tips to lower high blood pressure
In addition to eating a healthy, balanced diet, you should also engage in regular exercise.
As the NHS explains, being active and taking regular exercise lowers blood pressure by keeping your heart and blood vessels in good condition.
What’s more, regular exercise can also help you lose weight, which will also help lower your blood pressure, says the health body.
“Adults should do at least 150 minutes (two hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as cycling or fast walking, every week,” it adds.
What causes high blood pressure?
Although it is not known the exact mechanisms that underpin high blood pressure, there are a number of risk factors that contribute.
According to the British Heart Foundation (BHF), risk factors include being overweight, having too much salt in your diet, not doing enough physical activity, drinking too much alcohol and having family history of high blood pressure.
“We also know that people from an African Caribbean background and people living in deprived areas may be at higher risk,” says the health body.
How to test for high blood pressure
High blood pressure does not usually have any symptoms, so the only way to find out if you have it is to get your blood pressure checked.
Blood pressure testing is available:
- At your GP surgery – by a GP, practice nurse, healthcare assistant or self-service machine
- At some pharmacies
- At an NHS Health Check appointment offered to adults aged 40 to 74 in England
- In some workplaces
- At a health event.
You can also test your blood pressure at home using a home testing kit.
“Like 24-hour or ambulatory monitoring, this can give a better reflection of your blood pressure,” explains the NHS.
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