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Change the way you eat to lower blood pressure

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You have to do more than just limit your salt to manage your blood pressure.

I like to talk to the patients I counsel about how certain foods can serve as “medicine” and help control blood pressure. In some cases, medication is needed, but a healthy diet can decrease how much you need or even help you go off it entirely.

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Keeping high blood pressure (also called hypertension) under control is crucial for heart health. Left uncontrolled, high blood pressure stretches and damages arteries, making your heart work harder, but less effectively. This can lead to heart disease, stroke and other problems.

Think about trying the DASH diet to control your high blood pressure. It has been proven to help lower blood pressure, especially in African-Americans and people diagnosed with hypertension. It was recently ranked in US News & World Report as the #1 best diet overall. It’s easy to follow, nutritious and safe.

Here’s a breakdown of the foods that the DASH eating plan emphasizes:

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  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole-grain, high-fiber foods
  • Fat-free and low-fat (1 percent) dairy products
  • Beans (like chickpeas, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, etc.)
  • Seeds, nuts, and vegetable oils
  • Skinless poultry and lean meats
  • Fish, especially fatty fish that have omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, trout and herring (eat these at least twice a week)

Compared to the typical American diet, the DASH eating plan has less red meat, sodium, sweets and sugary drinks. It’s lower in saturated fat, trans fat and sodium. It also provides adequate protein and is rich in nutrients — like potassium, magnesium, calcium and fiber — that many of us fall short on. Many of the American Heart Association’s recipes are compatible with a DASH eating plan.

Some of my favorite DASH-friendly snacks are peanut butter on banana and apple slices, roasted unsalted nuts and creamy hummus with sliced carrot sticks, cucumbers, or other veggies, or on whole-grain crackers, whole-wheat pita bread or brown rice cakes.

Do you have a favorite snack that fits into the DASH eating plan? Share it with us!