By Kristen Hicks-Roof PhD, RDN and Caroline Jury BS

Since May is Hypertension Awareness Month, we hope this column will give you some insights in helping to manage your blood pressure. Nearly half of the American adult population have hypertension (blood pressure over 130/80, and only about 25 percent have it under control. (CDC) In 2019, high blood pressure was the No. 1 cause of death for 500,000 people in the United States alone.

Have you been diagnosed with high blood pressure? Now what? Dealing with a new diet regimen could be daunting, especially if you are encouraged to make lifestyle changes. What if I told you there’s a SMART way to achieve your goal towards a healthy lifestyle? 

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SMART is an acronym:

  • S: Specific — your goals need to be specific
  • M: Measurable — you need to have a way to measure how you’ll achieve your goal 
  • A: Achievable — make goals attainable, not too easy but challenging.
  • R: Realistic — each person is different; your goal needs to be reasonable for you.
  • T: Time-based — set a time to achieve it.

Now let’s put it into practice. 

  • Specific: Replacing chips with a less salty snack (e.g., vegetable sticks, unsalted nuts, fruit, low-sodium option)
  • Measurable: Dedicate a day of the week to do it; for instance, every Wednesday 
  • Achievable: Ask yourself, is this manageable for you to replace your snack once a week with this healthier alternative?
  • Realistic: Can you stick with this challenge for the measurable time period? 
  • Time-based: Try this for the next two weeks, so that’s a healthy snack on Wednesday for two weeks. Then on the third week, add another day of the week to dedicate a healthy snack. By the end of four weeks … that’s a month, you’re having a healthy snack two times a week. 

Remember that by incorporating SMART, you can be closer to managing high blood pressure one step at a time. I would like to share one of my favorite quotes:

“When changes are too drastic, they may be overwhelming. Small lifestyle changes are easier to achieve and maintain. They are more likely to become habits and lead you to success.” Dr. Lina Dajani

If you have additional questions or need personalized medical nutrition, don’t hesitate to contact a Registered Dietitian. Find one here: 

Kristen Hicks-Roof PhD, RDN, LDN, CLC, FAND is an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Brooks College of Health, University of North Florida.

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