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Monday, March 10, 2014
Approximately one in four adults in the United States has hypertension, or high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart disease. Lifestyle strategies for controlling blood pressure have traditionally included: (1) losing weight, (2) increasing physical activity, (3) reducing sodium intake, and (4) limiting alcoholic beverages to two drinks a day. Although these strategies are still recommended, is there a specific diet for lowering blood pressure?
Many past studies examined the effect of single nutrients, such as calcium and magnesium, on blood pressure. Most of these studies increased the nutrients in the diet with supplements and the results were inconclusive. But one landmark study, called DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), tested a diet without using supplements, and the findings were impressive. The blood pressure of persons who followed the DASH diet decreased within days, even in persons with normal blood pressure. In those persons with high blood pressure, the decrease in blood pressure was comparable to that found with some medications.
The DASH diet is a healthy diet that is low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol, high in fiber, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, and moderately high in protein. A follow-up study tested the DASH diet with different levels of sodium. The overall finding was that the DASH diet with a sodium restriction helps to lower blood pressure even more than the DASH diet without a sodium restriction.
The diet is fairly easy to follow. For most, it means increasing your servings of fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products and including whole grains, fish, poultry, and nuts in your diet. It also means reducing red meat, added fats, and sweets in your diet. Here are some simple, practical tips for following the diet:
For more tips, menus, and recipes, visit the National Institutes of Health website at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/hbp/dash/
Last Reviewed: Mar 24, 2006
Bonnie J Brehm, PhD, RD
Professor of Nursing
College of Nursing
University of Cincinnati