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Your blood pressure naturally rises and falls throughout the day. When it stays elevated for long periods of time, it can be dangerous because the heart has to work harder to pump blood to other organs. The medical term for this condition is hypertension, but it’s more commonly known as high blood pressure. 

For someone with high blood pressure, abiding by a healthy diet can be crucial for reducing the risk of atherosclerosis, stroke, heart attack, and other health issues. This often means unhealthy foods will need to be replaced with heart-healthy choices. 

It’s crucial that you learn to read food labels so you can be more aware of what you’re putting in your body. Some foods that are marketed as being “healthy options” still contain ingredients that can raise cholesterol, such as high amounts of sodium. Look for foods with the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check mark. They have been evaluated and meet the criteria for a single serving of saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium. 

The DASH Diet
DASH stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.” It’s been reported that people who follow the DASH Diet lowered their blood pressure within two weeks. 

According to this dietary plan, when dining out and cooking at home, it’s best to limit:

  • Saturated and trans fats
  • Sodium
  • Red meat
  • Sugary beverages

Instead, aim to eat meals that include more:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts and legumes
  • Skinless poultry
  • Fish
  • Low-fat dairy products

Your calorie needs will determine exactly how many daily servings you’ll need from each food group. 

Health professionals understand that lifestyle changes are difficult, and many patients can’t completely change their diet overnight. Your doctor can work with you to formulate a plan that helps meet your medical goals while being realistic for your lifestyle. This often involves making gradual changes instead of drastic ones. It’s vital that you’re honest with your healthcare team so they can help you smoothly transition to a heart-healthy diet.

For example, someone having trouble cutting red meat out of their diet can start by switching to leaner cuts. If a person currently consumes a large amount of sodium daily, they can start by cutting back to 2,400 milligrams (1 teaspoon) of sodium each day. Once they’ve adjusted, they can cut back to the recommended 1,500 daily milligrams. 

There are hundreds of ways to successfully maintain a heart-healthy diet while keeping your tastebuds happy!