The DASH Diet | Cooking DASH Diet Recipes & More…

Dec 21st, 2018

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is one of the most common diseases. It affects 1 in 3 Americans over the age of 18 years old. Hypertension, especially when ignored, can lead to more severe disorders such as cerebrovascular diseases, cardiac problems, and kidney failure. The treatment of hypertension and maintenance of optimal blood pressure level is of great importance.

Blood pressure is a measure of the force of blood in the circulatory system, which is often taken for medical diagnosis and monitoring. The reading consists of two levels or numbers, namely the systolic blood pressure (upper or first number) and diastolic blood pressure (lower or second number).

Systolic pressure: indicates the pressure of blood against artery walls when your heart beats and pushes the blood round the body.

Diastolic pressure: indicates the pressure of blood against artery walls between heartbeats, when your heart is at rest and refilling with blood.

Normal blood pressure is 90 to 120 mmHg for systolic and 60 to 80 mmHg for diastolic blood pressure. The criteria for diagnosing hypertension is a blood pressure over or equal to 130 mmHg/80 mmHg. Hypertension is further divided into two stages:

stage 1, where systolic blood pressure ranges from 130 to 139 mmHg and/or the diastolic blood pressure ranges from 80 to 89 mmHg; and

stage 2, where systolic blood pressure is over or equal to 140 mmHg and/or the diastolic blood pressure is over or equal to 90 mmHg.

People who have systolic blood pressure between 120 and 129 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure between 60 and 80 mmHg have high normal values of blood pressure, and this range is defined as a stage of prehypertension. Your blood pressure can be unhealthy even if it stays only slightly above 120/80 mmHg. The higher the level, the greater the health risk.

In around 5% of patients suffering from hypertension, it is due to an underlying medical disorder. For example, kidney disease, primary aldosteronism and pheochromocytoma. This kind of hypertension is called secondary, and treating the underlying condition will very likely result to a reduction in blood pressure levels or return to normal values. However, in most patients the cause of hypertension is unknown. This is called primary or essential hypertension, and it commonly requires a life-long treatment.

A high blood pressure makes it hard for the heart to pump enough supply of blood that contains the nutrients and oxygen needed by the different parts of the body. This can result to less elastic and scarred arteries. When stiffening of the arteries develop, it causes thickening of the cardiac muscle making it work even harder and weak. Damaged arteries affect the amount of blood supply that reaches body organs for proper functioning and a reduction in blood supply will harm any affected organs. This is why kidney failure is a very possible complication of high blood pressure.

Hypertension treatment is complex, and it includes lifestyle changes and medical treatment. However, medical treatment may not always be needed. You can ask your doctor for advise. It is important to keep in mind that medical consultation remains a priority.

The need for medical intervention can be determined by a doctor, where the combination and doses of antihypertensives are individual to each patient, as they depend on patient's blood pressure levels, age, other diseases that the patient may be suffering from and patient's general state.

On another note, every patient with hypertension is advised to make changes to their lifestyle. These include weight reduction, smoking cessation, engagement in aerobical physical activities, moderation of alcohol consumption and changes in diet.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and The American Heart Association promote the DASH diet for the control and prevention of hypertension. The DASH diet was first developed in the 1990s, based on multiple research, in order to produce a food-based strategy to lower blood pressure.

The DASH diet has been found to lower the blood pressure levels of individuals whether they be hypertensive or healthy people. Interestingly, this can also be achieved even without changes in salt intake or weight. However, it has shown not to lower the blood pressure level of healthy individuals to an extent that it goes below normal levels.

The efficacy of the diet was proven in many studies: in average, it can help reduce blood pressure levels by 11/8 mmHg in hypertensive patients, and by 8/4 mmHg in non-hypertensive and prehypertensive persons.

The DASH diet is a meal plan containing high amounts of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Fat-free or low-fat diary products, fish, beans and nuts should also be included. Foods rich in nutrients such as potassium, calcium and magnesium, along with antioxidants, contributes greatly to the normal functioning of the cardiovascular system.

The DASH plan recommends limiting foods that are high in saturated fat, such as red meat and full-fat dairy products, and reducing sweets and/or beverages of sugar content. Although the diet itself is proven to help reduce blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels, it is recommended that sodium intake is also lowered and limited to only 1500-3000 mg/day, as it further improves the result. The inclusion of restrictions in sodium intake to the diet has shown the greatest reductions in blood pressure levels among the studies. Hypertensive individuals with the lowest intakes of salt appeared to display the most impressive results. Eg., A daily intake of 1,500 milligrams (mg) sodium lowers blood pressure further than a daily intake of 2,300 mg sodium.

The DASH diet was not designed as a weight loss plan, but following the diet does not lead to unhealthy weight gain. However, since reduction of weight is also needed in some patients with hypertension, weight loss can be easily achieved by following the meal plan where you can reduce daily intake into 2000 calories; while increasing physical activity.

Following the diet, together with other healthy lifestyle changes adds up to the effects of antihypertensives. It may also allow the possibility to have lower doses of these drugs needed in controlling blood pressure in patients with hypertension. It is even more important in patients with prehypertension, for with these patients, lifestyle changes can prevent or slow down the actual development of hypertension. It can help prolong the time where you have no need for intake of medical substances or need for undergoing regular therapy.

The DASH dietary pattern may be effective at lowering blood pressure but is not only recommended for people suffering from hypertension; it is recommended for everyone, as it is a model of modern healthy diet, that is balanced, flexible, easy to follow as you go on and requires no special foods.

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The DASH Diet | Cooking DASH Diet Recipes & More...

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