The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) was created to assist in lowering blood pressure and high cholesterol.
It can also prevent high blood pressure where people are susceptible to the condition. One of the primary aims is to reduce sodium (salt) intake. The diet offers two levels of sodium intake – 2400mg down to 1500mg.
The DASH diet is based on NIH studies that examined three dietary plans and their results. None of the plans were vegetarian, but the DASH plan incorporated more fruits and vegetables, low fat or nonfat dairy, beans, and nuts than the others studied. The DASH diet reduced systolic blood pressure by 6 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by 3 mm Hg in patients with high normal blood pressure (formerly called “pre-hypertension”). Those with hypertension dropped by 11 and 6 mm Hg, respectively. These changes in blood pressure occurred with no changes in body weight. The DASH dietary pattern is adjusted based on daily caloric intake ranging from 1,600 to 3,100 dietary calories.
The DASH eating plan used along with other lifestyle changes can help you prevent and control blood pressure. If your blood pressure is not too high, you may be able to control it entirely by changing your eating habits, losing weight if you are overweight, getting regular physical activity, and cutting down on alcohol. The DASH eating plan also has other benefits, such as lowering LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, which, along with lowering blood pressure, can reduce your risk for getting heart disease.
Combining the DASH eating plan with a regular physical activity program, such as walking or swimming, will help you both shed pounds and stay trim for the long term. You can do an activity for 30 minutes at one time, or choose shorter periods of at least 10 minutes each. The important thing is to total about 30 minutes of activity each day. (To avoid weight gain, try to total about 60 minutes per day.)
You should be aware that the DASH eating plan has more daily servings of fruits, vegetables, and whole grain foods than you may be used to eating. Because the plan is high in fiber, it can cause bloating and diarrhea in some persons. To avoid these problems, gradually increase your intake of fruit, vegetables, and whole grain foods.
The DASH eating plan can be adopted to promote weight loss. It is rich in lower-calorie foods, such as fruits and vegetables. You can make it lower in calories by replacing higher calorie foods such as sweets with more fruits and vegetables and that also will make it easier for you to reach your DASH goals.
The DASH eating plan also emphasizes potassium from food, especially fruits and vegetables, to help keep blood pressure levels healthy. A potassium-rich diet may help to reduce elevated or high blood pressure, but be sure to get your potassium from food sources, not from supplements. Many fruits and vegetables, some milk products, and fish are rich sources of potassium. However, fruits and vegetables are rich in the form of potassium (potassium with bicarbonate precursors) that favorably affects acid-base metabolism. This form of potassium may help to reduce risk of kidney stones and bone loss.
Start the DASH eating plan today—it can help you prevent and control high blood pressure, has other health benefits for your heart, can be used to lose weight, and meets your nutritional needs.