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Feature Articles: Health


Healthy DASH diet may lower blood pressure


High blood pressure is a health concern for many of us. Tammy Roberts, nutrition and health education specialist with University of Missouri Extension, said there is a 90-percent chance that a middle-aged American will develop high blood pressure during their lives. The DASH diet is something that can help reduce blood pressure.


“The DASH plan helps lower systolic blood pressure quickly. Research has shown that following the DASH diet plan will decrease blood pressure in as little as two weeks. The diet is good for anyone because it incorporates healthy foods we all need to be eating,” said Roberts.


The diet includes foods low in saturated fat, cholesterol and total fat, and emphasizes fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products. The plan also recommends a healthy amount of whole-grain foods, fish, poultry and nuts.


Lifestyle changes

Don’t wait until you are diagnosed with high blood pressure to start healthy habits. The first line of defense for high blood pressure, both before and after it is diagnosed, is making lifestyle changes.


“The lifestyle changes that can have a positive impact on your blood pressure are limiting alcohol, not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, reducing sodium in the diet, adopting the DASH eating plan and being physically active,” said Roberts.


Overweight people are at a higher risk for developing high blood pressure. Losing weight can help decrease systolic (top number) blood pressure. Men who consume alcohol should limit themselves to two drinks per day, while women should have only drink per day. Quitting smoking is good for blood pressure and your overall health.


Too much salt

Eating too much sodium or salt can also contribute to high blood pressure. Sodium impacts blood pressure when the kidneys fail to get rid of the extra sodium.


“All people should consume 2,400 milligrams or less per day. One teaspoon of salt contains about 2,400 mg of sodium,” said Roberts.


After decreasing sodium intake to no more than 2,400 milligrams, it’s worth decreasing it even further to 1,500 milligrams. That amount has even better blood pressure lowering effects.


The problem is that the salt shaker is not the only place to find sodium. It is also important to look at Nutrition Facts labels to see how much sodium is in foods — canned and frozen foods can be especially high.


“Many of us really enjoy the flavor of salt. It is interesting to note that we are not born liking salt like we do sugar — we develop our taste for it,” said Roberts.


More information

A booklet about the DASH plan is available online at Another handout that is helpful for knowing how much of each food group to consume each day can be found online at


For more information, contact Tammy Roberts at 417-682-3579 or go online to


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Last update: Wednesday, September 15, 2010