Did you know that hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a major risk factor for heart disease? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost half of all adults in the United States have hypertension, and only 24% of those adults have their condition under control.
Every February we are reminded of the importance of taking care of our heart during American Heart Month. If you have hypertension, or think you may be at risk, make sure to talk with your doctor about what you can be doing to keep your blood pressure in a healthy range. One key area to focus on when working to treat or even prevent hypertension is eating heart healthy foods.
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is one of the best-researched eating patterns to help prevent and manage heart disease. Think of DASH as less of a diet, and more of a heart-healthy way to eat for the long term!
The DASH eating plan focuses on increasing healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, beans, and nuts. The eating plan is often combined with reduced sodium intake (<2,300mg sodium per day for most individuals) for optimal heart health. The combination of foods high in potassium, magnesium, calcium, and fiber in the DASH plan, paired with reduced sodium, can help to lower high blood pressure and keep your heart healthy. Research has also found that following a DASH eating plan can help reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol, which is another perk for keeping our hearts healthy!
A few things that are limited in the DASH plan include high fat meats, high fat dairy, and foods and beverages high in sugar. For more information about getting starting with DASH, visit the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s resource page.
Recipes to Focus on Heart Health
Eating healthy and following DASH does not need to be expensive. Beans, both dried and canned, can be a great, low-cost food to add into your day as part of the plan. They are rich in protein, fiber, and potassium, which makes them a great choice for keeping your heart healthy. When choosing canned beans, make sure to choose “no salt added” or “low sodium” options when available, or drain and rinse regular canned beans to reduce the sodium content.
To get started adding more beans into your routine, try a black bean burger in place of a regular burger, black bean salsa as a delicious snack, or black bean brownies as a fun way to sneak beans into a sweet treat that’s better for your heart.
Chloe Plummer, MS, RD, LD, is a clinical dietitian at the ProMedica Food Clinic. The Food Clinic helps to provide healthy food and nutrition education to ProMedica patients who have a hard time putting healthy food on the table. Learn more about how ProMedica is addressing food insecurity or call the Food Clinic at 419-291-8073.