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Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH)

Hypertension is another name for high blood pressure. Blood pressure is the force exerted on artery walls when the heart is beating and when it is at rest. The higher number is the "Systolic" pressure and is the pressure exerted on artery walls when the heart is in the contracting phase. The lower number is the "Diastolic" pressure and is the pressure exerted on artery walls when the heart is in the resting phase.

High blood pressure is a silent killer. If left unchecked, it can cause permanent damage, resulting in kidney failure, heart attack or stroke. Blood pressure is recorded in the form of a fraction with the higher number on the top and the lower number on the bottom. Blood pressure is considered high if the upper number (systolic pressure) is above 140 and the bottom number (diastolic pressure) is above 90 and stays there.

High blood pressure (HBP) affects two thirds of African-Americans. Left unchecked, it can have such serious long-term consequences as kidney damage, heart damage and stroke. African Americans suffer more extensive physical impairments from stroke that last longer than those of other racial groups.

Most of the time, the cause for high blood pressure cannot be determined, but, while the cause may not be known, the treatment can still be effective.

Dietary Interventions:

  1. Limit salt. Most medical experts recommend salt-sensitive persons limit salt to 2,000 milligrams per day. Watch out for "hidden" salt, found in butter flavorings, seasonings, tomato sauces, condiments and canned foods. Check with your healthcare practitioner before using a salt substitute.

  2. Limit intake of high-fat foods. Try baking of broiling rather than frying.

  3. Limit alcohol. Over consumption contributes to weakening of the heart muscle and to hypertension.

  4. Follow the DASH diet. The DASH diet was designed to prevent high blood pressure, but it's also low in fat. The DASH diet below is based on a 2,000-calorie-a-day meal plan. Check with your healthcare practitioner about whether the DASH diet may be the right diet for you.

The DASH Diet for Control of High Blood Pressure
Food group

Daily Servings

Nutritional Benefit
Low-fat or fat-free dairy 2-3 Calcium, potassium, magnesium and protein
Vegetables 4-5 Potassium, magnesium and fiber
Fruits 4-5 Potassium, magnesium and fiber
Grains and grain products 7-8 Carbohydrates and fiber
Meat, Poultry and fish 2 or fewer Protein and magnesium
Nuts, seeds and beans 4-5 per week Magnesium, potassium, protein and fiber
Fats and oils** 2-3 This applies to added fat; all other food choices should be low-fat
Sweets 5 per week Make these treats low-fat whenever possible
Original source: National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.
Updates at DASH

* Check with your healthcare practitioner before starting an exercise program.

** When choosing oils, select heart-healthy monounsaturated ones like olive, canola and peanut oils. Choose natural peanut butter over the processed kind.

Reading Food Labels  |  Counting Fat Grams  |  Fats and Cholesterol  |  Becoming a Leaner Cook  |  Dietary Supplements   |  The DASH Diet  |  Healthy Lifestyle  |  Mediterranean Diet  |  Nutrition and Health  |  Diet and Exercise Log

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1999-2000; updates: 2002, 2004, 2005, 2007 Women's Heart Foundation, Inc. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use prohibited. The information contained in this Women's Heart Foundation (WHF) Web site is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment, and WHF recommends consultation with your doctor or health care professional.