Research has shown that diet affects the development of high blood pressure, or hypertension (the medical term). Recently, a study found that a particular eating plan can lower elevated blood pressure.
This fact sheet tells what high blood pressure is and how you can follow the eating plan. It offers tips on how to start and stay on the plan, as well as a week of menus and recipes for some of the dishes.
The eating plan is meant for those with elevated blood pressure. It also is a heart-healthy plan that you can share with your family.
What Is the DASH Diet?
Even slight elevations of blood pressure above the optimal level of less than 120/80 mm Hg are unhealthy. The higher the blood pressure above normal, the greater the health risk.
In the past, researchers had tested various single nutrients, such as calcium and magnesium, to find clues about what affects blood pressure.
These studies were done mostly with dietary supplements and their findings were not conclusive.
Then, scientists supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) tested nutrients as they occur together in food. The results were dramatic. The clinical study, called "DASH" for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, found that elevated blood pressures can be reduced with an eating plan low in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol, and rich in fruits, vegetables, and lowfat dairy foods. The plan is rich in magnesium, potassium, and calcium, as well as protein and fiber.
DASH involved 459 adults with systolic blood pressures of less than 160 mm Hg and diastolic pressures of 80-95 mm Hg. About half of the participants were women and 60 percent were African Americans.
DASH compared three eating plans:
A plan similar in nutrients to what many Americans consume
A plan similar to what Americans consume but higher in fruits and vegetables
A "combination" plan--the DASH diet--lower in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol, and rich in fruits, vegetables, and lowfat dairy foods
All three plans used about 3,000 milligrams of sodium daily--about 20 percent below the U.S. average for adults. None of the plans was vegetarian or used specialty foods.
Results showed that both the fruit/vegetable and combination plans reduced blood pressure, but the combination plan had the greatest effect. The DASH eating plan reduced blood pressure by an average of about 6 mm Hg for systolic and 3 mm Hg for diastolic. It worked even better for those with high blood pressure--the systolic dropped on average about 11 mm Hg and the diastolic about 6 mm Hg. Further, the reductions came fast--within 2 weeks of starting the eating plan.
How Do I Make The Dash?
" Following the DASH Diet " gives the servings and food groups for the DASH eating plan. The number of servings you need may vary, depending on your caloric need.
You should be aware that the DASH plan has more daily servings of fruits, vegetables, and grains than you may be used to eating. This makes it high in fiber, which can cause bloating and diarrhea. To get used to the new eating plan, gradually increase your servings of fruits, vegetables, and grains.
GET THOSE NUTRIENTS The DASH eating plan is rich in various nutrients believed to benefit blood pressure and in other factors involved in good health. The amounts of the nutrients vary by how much you eat. If you eat about 2,000 calories a day on the plan, the nutrients you get will include:
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