Take a DASH to lower blood pressure

16_robbyn_1601CHECK IT OUT  — Barb Stratman’s daughter, Robbyn, got the opportunity to sit in the driver’s seat of the Mercy Flight chopper at the PMC Health Fair on Wednesday.  I-O Photo by Barb Stratman

By Wendy Wedum, Pondera County Extension Agent

Do you know your numbers…for Blood Pressure and Cholesterol?  Do you know the healthy limits?

What you eat affects your chances of developing high blood pressure (hypertension).  Research shows that high blood pressure can be prevented and lowered by following the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan.

High blood pressure is dangerous because it makes your heart work too hard, hardens the walls of your arteries and can cause the brain to hemorrhage or the kidneys to function poorly or not at all. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to heart and kidney disease, stroke and blindness.

But high blood pressure can be prevented and lowered if you take these steps:

Follow a healthy eating plan, such as DASH that includes foods lower in salt and sodium.

Moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes most days of the week.

Maintain a healthy weight.

Cook from scratch (processed foods are high in salt and sodium).

Read food labels - sodium amounts in food vary widely.

Part of the problem is not all foods are created equal. For example, different brands of the same food can have different sodium levels. Sodium in chicken noodle soup can vary by as much as 840 mg of sodium per serving.

And, there is often hidden sodium. More than 40 percent of sodium comes from these 10 types of foods: breads and rolls, cold cuts and cured meats, pizza, poultry, soups, sandwiches, cheese, pasta dishes, meat dishes, and snacks such as chips, pretzels and popcorn.

The source of food matters, too. About 65 percent of sodium eaten comes from packaged foods.  Remember to make food choices that are low in sodium.

How much is too much? A teaspoon of salt contains 2,300 mg of sodium.  A low sodium diet is limited to 1,500 mg per day. Those who should limit their sodium to 1,500 mg per day include people who are over age 51, have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.

How can you make the DASH?  Increase your daily servings of fruits and vegetables, increase use of fat-free and low-fat milk products, limit lean meats to six ounces per day and add two or more meatless meals each week.  Combining DASH with regular physical activity such as walking can help you lower your blood pressure numbers to feel well and get fit.

For more information and handouts, visit the Pondera County Extension office at the Pondera Courthouse, phone 271-4054.

Sources: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.