The Dreaded DASH diet
When I was first diagnosed at the age of 29 with hypertension (high blood pressure), my doctor prescribed the DASH diet (and lisinopril once a day).
I started working hard on controlling my blood pressure through diet changes and increasing my activity.
I first started trying to eliminate as much salt and sodium from my diet as possible. This is the first thing health care professionals, even me (as a cardiac nurse), tell people to do.
The DASH diet recommends less than 2,300 mg of sodium a day. But, even the Mayo Clinic states that following the DASH diet may only reduce systolic blood pressure 8 to 14 points. That’s not a whole lot.
That’s like 170/100 going down to 162/100, or maybe 156/100. That’s still high!
Well, I saw no difference in my blood pressure after several months of this diet. I truly avoided salt. I didn’t cook with it. I even avoided any kind of fast food and eating out (because that is all loaded with sodium).
Still, no difference in my blood pressure.
If you are curious why I blog about health on a personal finance blog then read these related posts:
So, at the urging of my sister, I switched to a mainly vegetarian/pescatarian diet. I started eating more organic, fresh fruits and vegetables. I started making more meals from scratch.
I signed up for Blue Apron ( a meal delivery service) to help plan and cook meals at home from scratch.
And, I started to see results – I was able to cut my blood pressure medicine dose in half.
After some research, I have come across many similar stories of people with chronic medical conditions like high blood pressure, GERD, etc., requiring prescription medications, but with just a switch in diet to plant-based (usually vegetarian or vegan), they have seen dramatic differences in their overall health and no longer require medications to control such ailments.
But, I wasn’t satisfied with that and I was interested in doing a challenge. So, I did a 12-day sugar-free challenge in March. I cut out all processed and refined sugars, basically no to ultra-low carbohydrates diet for 12 days – which, pretty much meant I avoided anything that came in a box or bag. I didn’t eat pasta, rice or potatoes either.
As part of the challenge, I had to read tons of food labels. The biggest revelation was how much sugar is added to yogurt and milk – which I love.
Almost everything in a box, bag or container has some sort of added sugar or sugar-substitute!
It was really hard at first. I was carving sweets and sugar none stop for several days at first. The first few days are usually the hardest, but it got better after day 4. Then around day 5, I started having dizzy spells and decided to check my blood pressure and discovered it was dropping to 90s/60s – which is super low for me.
I actually had to stop taking my blood pressure during the challenge in order to keep my blood pressure from dropping and causing dizziness.
I was kind of astonished at this turn of events.
When the challenge ended and I started eating sugar and carbohydrates again (chocolate is my vice), and my blood pressure started creeping up again. I had to resume my medicine, but I am trying to keep heavily processed foods and sugars out of my diet.
And Good news – I was able to again cut my medicine dose in half – down to the lowest dose of lisinopril.
My goal is to be completely off my blood pressure medicine by the end of this year!
American Grocery Stores are Full of “Fake” Food
It’s completely astonishing how much processed sugar is in our food. Grocery stores are full of processed, unhealthy food – it really is all just fake food.
Some lightly processed foods, like bagged spinach and salads, are not entirely bad for you, but heavily processed foods are usually hiding extra sugar, fat and salt, and lacking essential dietary requirements like fiber, vitamins and minerals.
Ever wonder why so many foods have to be “fortified” with key nutrients like vitamins and minerals?
Other Diets Worth Noting
There are two diets that might actualy just be re-designed Adkins diets, but they are worth noting and considering if you aren’t interested in a vegetarian (plant-based) diet. They are Whole 30 and Paleo. I personally haven’t tried these diets, but I have heard good things about them. Both promote “whole” foods, low carbs and no processed foods.
Pharmaceutical companies are good at creating medications and treatments, but usually fail at creating cures. Please, do not be mistaken that if you develop high blood pressure, GERD, COPD, coronary artery disease, diabetes, etc. that there will be a magic pill out there to cure you and give you back your health.
There isn’t (and probably will never be). All the pills and medications out there just manage diseases and symptoms.
Getting a stent put in your heart is not a cure. It doesn’t give you a free pass to go enjoy another double-quarter pounder with large fries and extra-large soda.
As a nurse, I feel strongly about saying this. Health maintenance and promotion should be more than just pushing medications.
And, diet should be at the forefront of any health plan!
Obviously, I cannot claim or prove that refined sugars and processed foods cause hypertension and other medical conditions, or that my high blood pressure was caused by too much processed foods in my diet. But, I strongly believe more research is warranted to explore the effects of so much processed food in our diets , and people should be further educated and informed about the foods sold in grocery stores and how our food is made and processed.
As for me, the DASH diet didn’t work and I know that my blood pressure is so much better after reducing processed foods and animal products. In addition, I would rather eat a healthy, plant-based diet than pop a pill or two in my mouth every day for the rest of my life.