University of Illinois Extension

What Dietary Changes can Help Lower Blood Pressure?

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Blood pressure is the pressure exerted by blood flow on artery walls. Blood pressure can change from minute to minute with changes in posture, exercise or sleep. However, according to the American Heart Association blood pressure should normally be less than 120/80 mmHg for an adult. Blood pressure that stays between 120-139/80-89 is considered prehypertension and above this level (140/90 mmHg or higher) is considered high (hypertension).

Recently these target blood pressure goals were changed for those over who are 60 years of age and older. At this age, 150/90 mm Hg or higher is the point at which medications may be prescribed, or the target for lowering blood pressure is someone is already diagnosed with hypertension. Studies have found no benefit to reducing blood pressure to 140/90 in this age group.1

blood pressure cuff

Blood pressure is affected by multiple dietary factors. Many studies have shown that specific dietary changes can have powerful and beneficial affects on blood pressure.

A specific eating plan that may be prescribed to reduce high blood pressure is the "Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension" (DASH) diet. The DASH diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, and low fat dairy foods, and low in saturated and total fat. It also is low in cholesterol, high in dietary fiber, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, and moderately high in protein. This diet has been proven to lower blood pressure and prevent hypertension in some individuals. The DASH diet suggests:

  • 7-8 daily servings from the grains and grain products group (Whole wheat products are encouraged.
  • 4-5 daily servings from the vegetables group.
  • 4-5 daily servings from the fruit group.
  • 2-3 daily servings of low fat or non-fat dairy products.
  • 2 or less daily servings from the meat, poultry, and fish group.
  • 4-5 servings of nuts, seeds, or legumes every week.
  1. JAMA. 2014; 311(5):507-520. Published online Dec. 18, 2013.

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This document is a source of information only, and is not medical advice.