Managing Hypertension and the DASH diet

Blood pressure (BP), by definition, is the pressure exerted by circulating blood upon the walls of blood vessels. Normal blood pressure measures around 120/80 mm Hg or less, prehypertension is characterized by BP between 120/80 and 139/89 mm Hg, and high blood pressure or hypertension is when the BP is above 140/90 mm Hg. Blood pressure is an indicator of the flexibility of blood vessels. If the blood pressure is normal, this means that the blood vessels are flexible and they are less sensible to cholesterol deposits and plaque formation.

High blood pressure can me managed as it responds very well to treatment. Dietary and lifestyle changes can all help and can save your life.The DASH diet supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute is one that is widely used and highly effective in controlling high blood pressure.

The Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet focuses on these guidelines:

  • Increase consumption of fruits, vegetables and fiber ( the fiber is from fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains, whole grain products and legumes which all constitute the major source of energy)
  • Consume foods rich in calcium including low-fat or non-fat milk and dairy products
  • Consume foods rich in potassium, magnesium such as broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, sweet peas, kale, spinach, tomatoes, bananas, apples, dates, grapes, oranges, pineapples, raisins, strawberries, mangoes…
  • Consume only lean meats and poultry trimmed of any visible fat, and fish
  • Limit consumption of saturated fats, and cholesterol
  • Consume less than 2.4 g of sodium or 1 teaspoon of salt per day. The doctor might even recommend to lower the consumption to 1.5g or less per day.

Other lifestyles changes include:

  • Weight loss
  • Exercise: walking and swimming are essentially beneficial
  • Smoking cessation
  • Limiting consumption of alcohol and caffeine
  • Reducing stress levels through meditation and relaxation techniques

Other than table salt, where is sodium mostly found?

  • Frozen microwave dinners
  • Canned Vegetables; rinse well before using and try to buy the ones with “no salt added” on the label.
  • Packaged deli meats; check the label and try to get lower sodium brands
  • Vegetable juices
  • Canned soups; look for lower sodium varieties
  • Flavorings such as Teriyaki sauce and soy sauce even the low-sodium kind
  • Broths and bouillon cubes; try to make your own while controlling the salt or use water instead
  • Salted nuts, chips and pretzels even the low-fat versions can pack loads of sodium so read the label
  • Condiments such as ketchup ( 1 tablespoon has 168mg sodium) and capers ( 1 tablespoon contains 255mg)
  • Breakfast ready-to-eat cereals, check the label
  • Some headache and heartburn medicine contain sodium carbonate or bicarbonate

Know the label jargon!

Phrase What   it means
Sodium-free Less than   5mg of sodium per serving
Very   low-sodium 35mg of   sodium or less
Low-sodium Less than   140mg of sodium per serving
Reduced   sodium 25 % less   sodium per serving than the regular version
Unsalted,   no salt added Made   without added salt but still contains the sodium normally found in foods

Also, when checking the ingredient list, look for the following: sodium, sodium citrate, sodium alginate,.. anything starting with sodium…, disodium phosphate, trisodium phosphate, monosodium glutamate, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), and Na.

Grapefruit and some hypertension medication

Grapefruit is very healthy providing vitamin C and fiber; however, when taken with some medication it can interact dangerously. It binds to an enzyme inside the intestines allowing the medication to be absorbed directly into the bloodstream. This raises the drug concentration in the blood boosting its effect sometimes to a dangerous level. This is the case with some drugs used to treat high blood pressure; such as, Felodipine (Plendil) and Nifedipine (Procardia, Adalat). Check with your doctor for alternatives if you consume grapefruit. On another note, grapefruit also interacts with some statins or cholesterol -lowering drugs mentioned in a previous post such as Atorvastatin (Lipitor), Simvastatin (Zocor), and Lovastatin (Mevacor).

Even if blood pressure doesn’t show any overt symptoms, you should get it checked. Dietary and lifestyle modifications can be sufficient to control and manage it.

Resources: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, WebMD,, MayoClinic, Harvard Medical School newsletter

12 thoughts on “Managing Hypertension and the DASH diet

  1. Pingback: Managing Hypertension And The Dash Diet | Mr.FuzzyBear

  2. Pingback: Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet | B.Real Magazine

    • Hi! You are right about the hibiscus tea. Several studies have shown that the consumption of up to three cups per day can lower both the systolic (the higher number) and diastolic ( the lower one) blood pressure after two to three weeks especially in people with moderate hypertension or borderline like you. However, one study showed that the blood pressure started to slightly go up again once the participants stopped drinking the tea.
      My advice to you would be following the DASH diet, checking your blood pressure regularly, and enjoying a cup of hibiscus tea.Why not? No side effects have been reported even though more studies are still needed.

      Stay healthy and greetings from the other side of the globe :)

  3. fab post…info informative. am happy to know that i follow most of the good ones. but its great that you provided an explanation of the labels. have stored in my phone so that I can be more cautious when I buy stuff!

  4. Pingback: Sunday Roundup – March 17 | Health 'n' Horizons

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