This is the 10-step DASH-Plus Plan. Here are the actions you should take to win your fight against high blood pressure, now and forever:
1. Follow the DASH Diet program
Your daily diet includes:
- Seven to eight servings of whole-grain products
- Four to five servings of vegetables
- Four to five servings of fruit
- Two to three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy products
- No more than two servings of meat, poultry or fish
- No more than three servings of fat (butter, oil or mayonnaise)
- Eight or more glasses of water
Your weekly diet can include:
- Four to five servings of nuts, seeds and legumes
- No more than five servings of sweets (cookies, brownies, cakes, candy and soda)
2. Make 90 percent of your diet fresh foods with no added sodium or salt
That means foods that are as close as possible to their natural state. Packaged foods, such as frozen dinners and processed breakfast cereals, should make up only 10 percent of your diet.
- Use your own ingredients, such as whole-wheat pasta and reduced-fat cheddar cheese to make a baked macaroni and cheese.
3. Cut back on salt
Use lemon juice, salt substitutes, dried garlic and fresh herbs in place of salt.
4. Limit alcohol
Women, no more than one drink a day; men, two a day.
5. Get 30 minutes or more of aerobic activity at least five days a week
Ideally, taking a 30-minute walk or two 15-minute walks daily is the easiest, most uncomplicated way to reach this goal.
6. Have two 15-minute sessions of strength training a week
Join a gym, and buy an exercise video with resistance exercises or a set of hand weights. Spend 15 minutes every other day using them.
Also, sometime within the next three months, take a class in a new activity, such as yoga or tai chi — both of which have been shown to reduce blood pressure.
7. Spend 5 minutes in a quiet room alone each morning and evening
Relax, purge anxiety about the day, recharge your energy, clear your mind.
Meditate or just focus on a lighted candle and stare into its flame, letting your thoughts wash through your mind.
8. Do a daily breathing exercise
Do 15 minutes of focused breathing each day.
Concentrate on lengthening the exhale, not the inhale. Do this anywhere, anytime.
See if your breathing has slowed as a result of these exercises.
9. Each day, take three conscious actions to reduce stress and anxiety
Small steps like these add up to a healthier, calmer attitude more quickly than you expect:
- Take a short walk.
- Step outdoors and stretch.
- Put on soothing music rather than watching TV.
- Drive calmly in the right lane.
- Hug and kiss your spouse or children.
- Phone a friend for a chat.
- Respond to hostility or anger with calm and humour.
- Make a cup of tea and take 15 minutes to drink it.
- Drive without the radio on.
10. Track your efforts every day for the next six weeks
Record your daily food portions, and your exercise and lifestyle efforts. At the end of each week, take your blood pressure, pour yourself a glass of wine or sparkling cider and go over your week.
- Where did you succeed?
- Where do you need to put more effort?
- How did your blood pressure change?
- Use the information to plan the coming week.