Did you know up to 80% of strokes are preventable? Following heart disease and cancer, stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States. It is also the number one cause of adult disability. Many individuals who suffer from stroke must do extensive rehabilitation to re-learn elementary tasks such as speaking, chewing and swallowing. And high blood pressure (i.e.: hypertension) is the top controllable risk factor for a stroke.
Whether you currently have high blood pressure or not, it may very well develop if you don’t take the steps now to reduce your risk. Here are two changes you can make immediately to affect how your eating behaviors impact your risk:
Reduce your sodium intake. Have you heard that before? Most people have. Choosing foods with minimal added sodium from salt and preservatives, cooking without salt and keeping the salt shaker out of sight are great practices for reducing sodium’s impact on high blood pressure.
But, reducing one’s sodium intake is only one dietary tool for treating hypertension. Increasing the amount of potassium in your diet can be an unsung hero. Since potassium helps counteract the effect of sodium on your blood vessels, eating a meal plan rich in potassium-containing foods is just as important as eating less sodium.
Add more potassium to your weekly meal plan. This is a cinch with fruits and vegetables! Include choices like potatoes, canned white beans, cooked tomatoes (i.e.: sauce, puree and paste), edamame (soy beans), lima beans, bananas, cooked spinach, peaches and orange juice— all a perfect match for building a balanced diet rich in vegetables, fruits and legumes.
Please Note: Before increasing your potassium intake, individuals with decreased kidney function, on certain medications (i.e.: NSAIDs, ACE inhibitors, heparin, cyclosporine, beta-blockers and the antibiotic trimethoprim) and the elderly should consult their physician before making any drastic changes to the amount of potassium consumed on a daily basis.
The DASH Plan
Eating a meal plan rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables that hit all colors of the rainbow is the most direct way to ensure you’re getting enough potassium. In the end, though, the American Dietetic Association recommends an overall eating plan with proven results to reduce high blood pressure. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension(DASH) Eating Plan guidelines are great for not only eating less sodium and more potassium, they also help individuals meet food group goals and have been shown to reduce blood pressure after 14 days in individuals with moderately high blood pressure*.
Below is an example of what a 2,000 calorie DASH plan looks like. Selecting foods according to these recommendations could contribute 4,700 milligrams (mg) of potassium and only 2,300 mg of sodium to your daily meal plan. Take a peek and try it out!
A 2,000 Calorie DASH Plan
4-5 servings: 1 serving = • 4 ounces 100% fruit juice • 1 medium fruit • ¼ cup dried • ½ cup fresh, frozen or canned
4-5 servings: 1 serving = • 4 oz 100% vegetable juice • 1 cup raw leafy vegetables • ½ cup chopped or cooked
7-8 ounce-equivalents: 1 ounce-equivalent = • 1 oz (28 grams) slice of bread • 1 oz dry cereal • ½ cup cooked rice, pasta or cereal
<6 ounces of meat, poultry or fish: 1 ounce-equivalent = • 1 oz cooked lean meat, poultry or fish • 1 whole egg (2 egg whites)
Nuts & Beans
4-5 servings: 1 serving = • 1 ½ oz nuts • ½ oz seeds • ½ cup cooked beans
2-3 cups: 1-cup serving = • 1 cup low-fat/fat-free milk or yogurt • 1 ½ oz low-fat/fat-free natural cheese • 2 oz low-fat/fat-free processed cheese