Many seniors have high blood pressure (hypertension). While medications play an important role in helping people manage their systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number) levels, maintaining a proper diet is just as essential. At senior living communities like Five Star, residents have a lot of freedom to choose what they would like to eat and it can be challenging to stay on a restrictive diet with so much temptation.
That’s why the DASH Diet (which stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension”) can be so effective: you eat a wide assortment of real foods so you always feel full, but you don’t have to count calories or carbohydrates, or even say no to desserts all the time. The DASH Diet is more of a lifestyle change than a strict diet, emphasizing foods that are low in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol, and high in potassium, calcium, and magnesium, as well as protein and fiber. Scientific research sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) showed that DASH can lower high blood pressure and improve blood lipid levels, which can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Making Good Choices is Easy
That may sound confusing but it really isn’t. It’s just a matter of choosing poultry and fish over red meat, eating lots of fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods; and cutting out or reducing fats, sweets, and sugary beverages. Recommended daily or weekly servings are as follows:
- Whole grains: 6 to 8 servings a day
- Vegetables: 4 to 5 servings a day
- Fruits: 4 to 5 servings a day
- Low-fat or nonfat dairy: 2 to 3 servings a day
- Lean meat, poultry, and fish: 2 to 3 servings a day
- Nuts, seeds, and legumes: 4 to 5 servings a week
- Healthy fats and oils: 2 to 3 servings a day
- Sweets: 5 or fewer a week
That may seem like a lot of food but as we said, you won’t go hungry! Start off slowly and give your body time to adjust to the new way of eating. You’ll find that you’ll feel better, have more energy, and that eating will be as fun and satisfying as it’s supposed to be. After all, DASH is not a fad diet, it’s a day-to-day, lifelong approach to healthy eating, so you can stick with it more easily.
Menu Ideas and More Information
Five Star Senior Living communities offer delicious dining options and while we don’t offer a strict DASH menu, we do offer heart-healthy options that are closely aligned with the DASH diet. But the point is that the choices are in your hands, and by choosing lean proteins, increasing fruits and vegetables, low- or nonfat dairy, and limiting fats and sweets, you can make a real difference in your health.
For more information on the DASH diet and suggested servings and choices, please view these articles from the NHLBI and the Mayo Clinic.