Your first thought when you hear the word “diet” may be a plan to eat less in order to lose weight. But there are many reasons to change what and how you eat, including aesthetic, ethical, economic, and environmental reasons, and health reasons that not directly related to losing weight.
We believe strongly in managing medical conditions through lifestyle changes, and we know that what we eat can significantly impact how we live. If you would like to lower your blood pressure (i.e., reduce hypertension) or manage the symptoms of gout, there is a diet for you. The DASH diet just might save your life.
DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension and it was developed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. This is not a fad diet, but rather a long term approach to eating well. It is sensible, satisfying, full of variety, and allows the individual to modify her diet mindfully. It is described as a “lifelong approach” to eating, a concept we wholeheartedly embrace.
The DASH diet starts with a limit on your sodium intake (2,300 mg/day for the standard diet; 1,500 mg/day for a more aggressive impact on hypertension) and adds these components:
- large amounts of vegetables, fruits and whole grains
- fat-free or low-fat dairy, fish, poultry, beans, nuts and vegetable oils
- limiting saturated fats in foods like fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, and tropical oils
- limiting added sugar
See this article by the Mayo Clinic for details on serving sizes and quantities, and recommendations on how to incorporate these guidelines into a satisfying meal plan. According to the Mayo Clinic, once you’ve begun the DASH diet you may reduce your blood pressure by a few points in just two weeks, and ultimately reduce your systolic blood pressure by 8 to 14 points.
If you follow the DASH diet you will get to enjoy lots of fruits, a variety of vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods. Your will learn to design a meal around vegetables, rather than think of them as a side dish. You’ll still be able to eat any kind of meats or sweets you want, but they’ll be smaller portions, eaten less frequently. When you want a snack, reach for fruit. Pair the fruit with a low-fat yogurt for a highly satisfying treat that is good for your heart, plus low in fat and calories.
Nuts and legumes, also important parts of the diet, are full of fiber and phytochemicals, which help you feel full and may ward against certain types of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Brazil nuts in particular are high in magnesium, which is considered beneficial for lowering blood pressure.
And this diet encourages you to eat your carbs, which is great for quick energy and feeling satisfied! Make them whole grain varieties and choose products with little or no added sugar.
Hypertension affects around 50 million persons in the United States. Being overweight increases the chances of developing high blood pressure. So even if you are not yet diagnosed with hypertension, if you’re overweight you may be at risk. You could also be pre-diabetic or affected by gout, which is caused by a buildup of uric acid in the blood that forms hard crystals in your joints. Too much alcohol, fatty foods and meat can lead to this painful condition. It too can be managed by following the DASH guidelines for a balanced diet.
If you want guidance in managing your weight or adopting a healthier diet for other health and lifestyle objectives, contact the aging experts at Evolved Medical in San Mateo, Lafayette, Santa Cruz or Monterey. We are happy to provide a free consultation.