The DASH for Heart HealthAuthor: Diplomat Pharmacy Date: January 17, 2020
If you’ve had a heart attack, or if your doctor thinks you are at risk, adjusting your diet may be one of the first things they suggest.
Eating healthy foods can not only lower your risk of a heart attack or stroke, it can also help you to recover. A heart-healthy diet typically aims to lower sodium intake as well as saturated fats. High blood pressure and saturated fats that gather in the arteries make the heart work harder than normal.
The Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is a heart-healthy eating plan that includes reducing sodium and eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods low in saturated fats. According to the Mayo Clinic, you may be able to lower your blood pressure by a few points in just two weeks by following the DASH diet. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 1,500 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day for adults; however, there are two versions of the DASH diet:
- Standard DASH diet: Allows up to 2,3000 mg of sodium per day
- Lower-Sodium DASH diet: Allows up to 1,500 mg sodium per day
As an example, a typical American consumes around 3,400 mg of sodium per day.1 A single teaspoon of salt has 2,325 mg of sodium,1 so it’s easy to see how even a little salt can put you far over the daily limit set by your doctor. The DASH diet is designed to be low in sodium and saturated fats. It concentrates on nutrient-rich foods as well as fresh produce. Processed foods often contain the most sodium, especially deli meats, canned soups, and vegetables. Be sure to avoid adding salt and tropical fats when cooking meals.
In addition to the lower sodium content, the DASH diet limits fats and oils to less than 6% of calories consumed daily, and avoids alcohol, which can also increase blood pressure.
DASH Diet Basics2
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Whole-grain breads, pastas, rice, and cereals
- 2–3 servings of fresh fish per week
- Lean meats
- Reduced-fat dairy such as skim milk, part-skim cheese, or low-fat yogurt
Tips for Getting Started on the Dash Diet3
- Small, manageable changes can help you adjust to a new diet
- Add a fruit or vegetable to each meal
- Try meatless Mondays
- Use herbs and spices instead of salt
- Snack on unsalted nuts rather than chips
- Try using whole-wheat flour rather than white flour
- Avoid processed foods
- Avoid fatty and sugary food
- Get support from family, friends, and your healthcare provider
Tips for Reading Labels
- Check the serving size
- Look for the word sodium in the ingredients; there are many forms of sodium (salt)
- Try to choose foods with 140 mg of sodium or less per serving
- Foods with more than 300 mg are high in sodium and should be avoided
Eating for heart health and following the DASH diet can even lower your risk for osteoporosis, cancer, and diabetes. For questions about how to make the DASH diet work best for your condition, contact your doctor.