What is the DASH diet?
The DASH diet is an acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. For a long time, researchers thought individual nutrients affected blood pressure, such as sodium in foods. Traditionally it was thought that a high sodium diet resulted in high blood pressure, but it appears that sodium's effect on blood pressure varies greatly among people.
This prompted researchers to change the way they looked at diet and blood pressure. The DASH researchers shifted to looking at the role of whole dietary patterns and the combination of certain nutrients (specifically a low fat diet rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium and moderate in sodium) in foods and their effect on high blood pressure.
DASH researchers studied three different diets on 459 people (27% of subjects had high blood pressure; the rest had normal). Keeping sodium levels constant (3,000 milligrams each day) they compared the traditional American diet (high in total fat, low in potassium, magnesium and calcium) to a diet high in fruits and vegetables (still not ideal in calcium or fat levels) and to a combination diet (the DASH diet - high in fruits, vegetables and low fat dairy foods and also low in total fat from animal products).
What they found
Both the fruit/vegetable diet and the combination diet lowered blood pressure in subjects with normal and high blood pressures. The combination (or DASH diet) showed the greatest blood pressure-lowering benefits. In a subsequent study, lowering sodium levels (1,500 or 2,400 milligrams) in addition to the DASH diet had even greater blood pressure lowering benefits.
Most recently, researchers looked at the DASH diets effect on cholesterol values as well. It turns out, those looking to control blood pressure and lower cholesterol levels have even more reason to try the DASH; the DASH diet significantly lowered total and LDL-cholesterol (referred to as the "bad" cholesterol) levels in subjects with borderline-high and high cholesterol.
A Look at the DASH
Here is an example of a 2,000-calorie DASH diet plan.
- Food Group: Grains & Breads
- Number of Servings per Day: 7-8
- Food Group: Vegetables
- Number of Servings per Day: 4-5
- Food Group: Fruits
- Number of Servings per Day: 4-5
- Food Group: Low fat/Nonfat Dairy
- Number of Servings per Day: 2-3
- Food Group: Meat, Poultry, Fish
- Number of Servings per Day: 6 ounces or less
- Food Group: Nuts, Seeds, Dry Beans
- Number of Servings per Day: 4-5 per week
Depending on your weight, height, gender, age and activity level your calorie needs may differ. To find out more about the DASH diet, visit the National Heart Lung & Blood Institute*. Downloadable materials and suggestions on how to start the DASH diet can be found here.
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Here’s to your heart health!
For more information on a heart-healthy diet plan, please contact the Preventive Cardiology and Rehabilitation Program at 216.444.9353 (or toll-free at 800.223.2273, extension 4-9353) and we can schedule a nutrition consultation - or - use our Remote Cardiac Nutrition Counseling Services.
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