Distributed May 2004
May is designated each year as a time to help educate people about the importance of preventing and treating high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and the chief risk factor for stroke and heart failure. It also can lead to kidney damage, says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.
The nutritionist says lowering blood pressure, especially in older people, dramatically reduces strokes, coronary events, heart failure, progression of renal disease and all-cause mortality.
"Despite the health benefits of controlling blood pressure, hypertension control rates, especially control of systolic blood pressure, are worse among older Americans," Reames says.
Research has shown that following a healthy eating plan can both reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure and lower an already elevated blood pressure.
"Lifestyle modification can be an effective part of a blood pressure-lowering program," Reames says, noting that a recent study, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), showed blood pressure could be lowered by following an eating pattern low in salt, saturated fat, total fat and cholesterol and rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products.
A second clinical study, called "DASH-Sodium," looked at the effect of a reduced dietary sodium intake on blood pressure as people followed either the DASH diet or a typical American diet.
Results showed that reducing dietary sodium lowered blood pressure for both the DASH diet and the typical American diet. The biggest blood pressure-lowering benefits were for those eating the DASH diet at the lowest sodium level (1,500 milligrams per day).
"The DASH-Sodium study shows the importance of lowering sodium intake whatever your diet," Reames says, adding, "But for a true winning combination, follow the DASH diet and lower your intake of salt and sodium."
To get started using the DASH diet, the nutritionist makes these suggestions:
• If you now eat one or two vegetables a day, add a serving at lunch and another at dinner.
• If you don’t eat fruit now or have only juice at breakfast, add a serving to your meals or have it as a snack.
• Use only half the margarine, salad dressing or butter you do now.
• Gradually increase dairy products to three servings per day. For example, drink milk with lunch or dinner, instead of soda, alcohol or sugar-sweetened tea. Choose low-fat (1 percent) or fat-free (skim) dairy products to reduce total fat intake.
• Try low-fat or fat-free condiments, such as fat-free salad dressings.
• Treat meat as one part of the whole meal, instead of the focus.
• Limit meat to 6 ounces a day (two servings, which is all that’s needed). Three to 4 ounces is about the size of a deck of cards.
• If you now eat large portions of meat, cut back gradually by a half or a third at each meal.
• Include two or more vegetarian-style (meatless) meals each week.
• Increase servings of vegetables, rice, pasta and dry beans in meals. Try casseroles, pasta and stir-fry dishes with less meat and more vegetables.
• Use fruits or low-fat foods as desserts and snacks. Fruits and low-fat foods offer great taste and variety. Use fruits canned in their own juice. Fresh fruits require little or no preparation. Dried fruits are easy to carry with you.
• Try these snack ideas: unsalted pretzels or nuts mixed with raisins, graham crackers, low-fat and fat-free yogurt and frozen yogurt, plain popcorn with no salt or butter added and raw vegetables.
For additional information about controlling hypertension, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office. Also, visit the Family and Consumer Sciences Web site at http://www.lsuagcenter.com/Inst/Extension/Departments/fcs/.
On the Internet: LSU AgCenter:
Source: Beth Reames (225) 578-3329 or