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Why Did My Doctor Recommend DASH?

Part 1 of the series “Introduction to the DASH diet” By Dr. Donna Schwontkowski, D.C., M.S. Nutrition
Part 2, How do I start with the DASH diet?
Part 3, How To Start Cooking Foods By The DASH Diet

If you received recommendations to follow DASH, your doctor most likely thought that your high blood pressure can be reduced with diet. He or she likely discovered that your blood pressure was high. He may have been monitoring you for high blood pressure, watching it creep up over the last few years along with your weight. You may admit weight gain is an issue; no matter what you try for weight loss, the results aren’t there.

You may be determined not to take blood pressure medication. Perhaps you’ve seen what happens to the quality of life once some family members started on medications. You don’t want any part of it.

If this scenario sounds even a little bit like the situation you’re in, your doctor may have recommended the DASH Diet. DASH isn’t a diet plan where you use that American product on the market called Dash – the seasoning blend of herbs and seasonings for your food that comes out of a salt shaker.

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. And hypertension is high blood pressure. DASH is well proven scientifically (originally tested in Harvard) and widely recognized for its results. That’s why doctors prescribe DASH. You may have seen Dr. OZ talking about it, and you may or may not know that DASH was selected by the board of the U.S. health experts as the best overall diet, having come either #1 or in top three for every selected category.

The good news is that it’s possible to drop your blood pressure and your weight too with the DASH Diet. And once this happens, you’ve escaped taking blood pressure medications once more. And of course, if you already have diabetes, the advantages of the DASH Diet to you are even greater. Diabetes goes hand in hand with negative heart and blood vessel changes so the sooner you can positively impact your blood vessels, the sooner you reduce this risk.

What Causes High Blood Pressure?

Incorrect diet is one of the causes of high blood pressure.

The DASH Diet is low in sodium and high in potassium. Many people don’t realize that high blood pressure can be caused by either high sodium in the diet or low potassium. Of course, you can also work yourself into a case of high blood pressure from reacting to situations emotionally.

You could be a Type A Personality or a perfectionist who gets stressed out when things aren’t working right for you. And you could have developed habits over the years where stress causes you to run for comfort foods, ones generally too high in salt, sugar and/or fat. And that’s when your blood pressure may be rising without you even aware of it.

More recently, health experts are reporting that too much sugar or fat in the diet are additional culprits in causing high blood pressure. These are also addressed on the DASH Diet.

But back to sodium and potassium. These two electrolytes together do their own type of ‘dance’ in the body. They are especially important for the regulation of fluids into and out of the cells. By regulating these two electrolytes, you can quickly gain a measure of control over your blood pressure.

How much water your body has is determined by sodium, found outside cells in your body. And this electrolyte is responsible for the creation of electrical signals in your nervous system.

Most Americans eat far too much sodium in their diet than the amount that’s good for the arteries. The average level of sodium consumed is about 3500 mg per day, and anywhere from 1500 to 2000 mg is the level that keeps the arteries healthy. Processed foods are the usual culprits in having high amounts of sodium. By lowering the dietary sodium you can directly impact your high blood pressure.

How Potassium Contributes to Blood Pressure

Potassium on the other hand, is found inside the cells. It’s essential for regulation of your heart rate. Without it, you can have heart arrhythmias. Potassium increases blood flow in the body and has also been found to increase the relaxation of the blood vessels. This is especially important when you have high blood pressure. Studies have found that when potassium is increased in the body by diet, about four weeks later, blood pressure goes down. The potassium allows your body to excrete sodium.

This ratio of sodium and potassium in the body can contribute to your weight issue, too. Too much sodium in the body holds water in the body. It’s this extra water in the body that starts putting pressure on the heart. It’s similar to carrying a bucket of water every time you go somewhere. That would get old fast, wouldn’t it?

High potassium foods include fruits and vegetables. A level of 4700 mg potassium in your diet is what you’re striving for. The DASH Diet includes meats, nuts, seeds, dairy products, eggs, fish and grains as well. What you’ll focus on in this diet is portion sizes and actual food choices. Once you give it a try, you’ll see that after a short adjustment period, it’s quite easy, although having menu plans certainly does make it a lot easier.

You’ll also discover that this diet is quite wholesome and one that can help increase your energy levels, restore a sense of wellness to how you feel, and makes you feel as if you have more vitality.

The DASH Diet is an easy way to approach the problem of high blood pressure and one that brings great health benefits in other ways. Get ready to start looking for these benefits; it won’t be long!

Continue to
Part 2, How do I start with the DASH diet?
Part 3, How To Start Cooking Foods By The DASH Diet