Try the DASH Diet to Lower Your Blood Pressure & Promote Heart Health

by Shayna Bryan, Intern & UAB Community Health & Human Services Student

DASH Diet, Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in America. In addressing this national challenge, researchers created the DASH diet after following participants in a rigorous 5-year intervention called the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Study. Hypertension, also known as high-blood pressure, is a major risk factor for heart disease, but can be managed with a healthy diet. The DASH diet was designed to be a nutrition-based approach to address the high rates of hypertension and heart disease associated with the typical high-sodium American diet. Most studies on nutrition use dietary recalls, looking at past diet history. In contrast, the DASH study participants were provided with food and their sodium intake was carefully controlled and monitored. The results of the DASH Diet Study demonstrated that diet alone is effective at reducing blood pressure!

The CDC recommends the average adult consumes less than 2,300 mg sodium per day. The DASH diet sets this as the beginning maximum, but about 90% of Americans are consuming far more than this. The average sodium consumption per day is an astounding 3,400 mg for U.S. adults! Just lowering one’s daily salt intake down to the CDC recommendation will be a major improvement for most people and will result in blood pressure reduction in a matter of weeks. The even more ambitious low-sodium DASH diet aims to gradually reduce your intake to 1,500 mg per day.

Most of the sodium we consume comes in the form of salt, which is added to processed foods for preservation and flavor. We can drastically lower our salt intake by focusing on whole foods which are naturally low in sodium.

The DASH diet emphasis the consumption of:

  • Fruits
  • Veggies
  • Whole grains
  • Lean protein
  • Low-Fat dairy

This combination is high in potassium, magnesium and calcium, and fiber, while low in saturated fats. All of these nutrients, particularly the potassium (which is abundant in vegetables) help naturally lower blood pressure and counteract the effects of excessive sodium. The DASH Diet also discourages foods high in saturated fat, such as red meat, as well as sugary beverages.

The DASH Diet is recommended by the American Heart Association and is ranked the best heart-healthy diet and second-best diet overall (it has often traded places with the very similar current #1 spot, the Mediterranean Diet, which you can read about here) by the U.S. News and World Report.


Gradual change is the key to success whenever making a positive change in life.

Here are some small changes you can make to ease yourself into DASH-style diet:

  • Add one serving of vegetables to your existing meals
  • Go meatless for 2+ days a week
  • Switch out some of your grains to whole, such as brown rice or whole wheat pasta
  • Add more herbs and spices to your meals, instead of salt
  • Snack on more whole foods, such as nuts or fruit

Below are some full meal plans designed by experts and more detailed resources.

Week on DASH

DASH Meal Planning Chart

Detailed DASH Eating Plan


Sources:

DASH Diet. (n.d.). Retrieved June 03, 2021, from https://health.usnews.com/best-diet/dash-diet

Dash eating plan. (n.d.). Retrieved June 03, 2021, from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/dash-eating-plan

How to make the dash diet work for you. (2019, May 08). Retrieved June 03, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/dash-diet/art-20048456

Sodium. (2020, September 08). Retrieved June 03, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/sodium.htm


ARE YOU GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP? TEST YOURSELF AND TRY THESE TIPS

by Adrienne Stokes, M. Ed. | UAB Community Health & Human Services Alumni

Photo by William Fortunato on Pexels.com

A good night’s sleep should not be taken for granted. Not getting enough sleep is linked to increased risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, obesity, and depression. Exhaustion can also lead to vehicular accidents and mistakes at work.

Sufficient sleep is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. It is recommended that most adults sleep 7-9 hours each night for optimal health. It is also important that your regular sleep is of good quality, so you feel rested when you wake.

Getting enough sleeps means less sickness, a healthy weight, lower health risks for serious health conditions, reduced stress, improved mood, clearer thinking, and better decision making.

Talk to your doctor if you often have trouble sleeping or still feel tired after sleeping as these are symptoms of a possible sleep disorder.


Good Sleep Habits

  • Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time, even on the weekends
  • Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, and at a comfortable temperature
  • Remove electronic devices from the bedroom (i.e. TVs, computers, cell-phones)
  • Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime
  • Enjoy some physical activity before bedtime

Are you getting enough sleep?

Take the Sleep Hygiene Index below to see if you are getting enough sleep. Answer the following thirteen (13) questions. If after adding your total below, your score is 7 and above, consider trying the good sleep habits above.

  1. I take daytime naps lasting 2 or more hours (Yes or No)
  2. I go to bed at different times from day to day (Yes or No)
  3. I get out of be at different times from day to day (Yes or No)
  4. I exercise to the point of sweating within 1 hour of going to bed (Yes or No)
  5. I stay in bed longer than I should 2 or 3 times a week (Yes or No)
  6. I use alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine within 4 hours of going to bed (Yes or No)
  7. I do something that may wake me up before bedtime (play video games, browse internet, clean) (Yes or No)
  8. I go to bed feeling stressed, angry, upset, or nervous (Yes or No)
  9. I use my bed for things other than sleep or sex (watching TV, reading, eating, studying) (Yes or No)
  10. I sleep on an uncomfortable bed (poor mattress or pillow, too much or not enough blankets) (Yes or No)
  11. I sleep in an uncomfortable bedroom (too bright, too stuffy, too hot, too cold, too noisy) (Yes or No)
  12. I do important work before bedtime (pay bills, study) (Yes or No)
  13. I think, plan, or worry when I am in bed (Yes or No)

Score

For every Yes add 1 point, for every No add 0 points. Add up your totals.

0-3 Very Good

4-6 Good

7-9 Poor

10-13 Very Poor

(Sleep Hygiene Index Adapted from Mastin, Bryson & Corwyn, 2006)


Please check out the sources below to learn more about the practicing good sleep habits. Please also share your thoughts about sleep and sleep hygiene in the comments section of this post or via our page on Facebook @WilkinsonWellnessLab.

Resources and Further Reading

https://health.gov/myhealthfinder/topics/everyday-healthy-living/mental-health-and-relationships/get-enough-sleep#panel-4

https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/index.html