Do you know how to manage your high blood pressure by mouth?
LIVING NATURALLY with Olwen Anderson
WELL, this should be simple, you think, as your practitioner slides a DASH diet sheet across the desk.
You've just been told you're almost at the threshold for chronic high blood pressure (hypertension), but your practitioner says you might be able to avoid life-long medication through managing what you eat.
They're suggesting a widely researched diet that's been shown to help reduce blood pressure - the DASH diet. Looks pretty simple; no exotic or expensive ingredients. Missing the fast food, cakes and pastries of course, but you'd expected that. This should be easy, you think.
But if the solution is so simple, why haven't more people with high blood pressure opted to use what they put in their mouth as a treatment?
I suspect there are two obstacles. The first is vegetables. You need to have five to seven serves of vegetables each day on the DASH diet. A half cup of chopped up vegetables or one cup of leafy green vegetables makes one serve.
Think you're already doing this? Here's a way to check: measure out seven cups of vegetables in the morning, and eat them all before you go to bed. You could enjoy some in a vegetable omelette for breakfast, some raw in a lunchtime salad, and the rest with your evening meal.
Here's a tip: if you can't gather together seven serves of fresh vegetables from your fridge today, it's likely there just isn't enough vegetables in your diet, period. Better head out to the shops or farmers' market today.
The other obstacle to eating well? Convenience. We're all lazy by nature, it seems. And there's no way around it - if you choose a healthier diet with more fresh unprocessed foods, it's going to take time and effort. Inevitably, you've got to do something to vegetables before you can eat them, even if it's just chopping them into a salad.
There are other aspects to managing high blood pressure, absolutely - diet is just one part of a management strategy, and the choice of treatment is always yours. But if you'd like to opt for the more natural options, choosing what to eat can be a good place to start.
You can find more details about the DASH diet online: "Your guide to lowering your blood pressure with DASH” is available for free on the internet - and although it's written for the American market, you could easily translate it to Australian eating.
Olwen Anderson is a naturopath and counsellor and a columnist with the Tweed Daily News. Contact her at www.olwenanderson.com.au