DASH Diet for Blood Pressure

The first clinical study was called "DASH," and it tested nutrients as they occur together in food. Its findings showed that blood pressures were reduced with an eating plan that is low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and total fat, and that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods. This eating plan (known as the DASH eating plan or DASH diet for blood pressure) also includes:
  • Whole-grain products
  • Nuts
  • Fish
  • Poultry.
The DASH diet contains few red meats, sweets, and sugar-containing beverages. It is rich in calcium, potassium, and magnesium, as well as protein and fiber.
The DASH clinical study compared three eating plans:
  • A diet similar in nutrients to what many Americans consume
  • A plan similar to what Americans consume, but containing more fruits and vegetables
  • The DASH diet.
All three plans included about 3,000 milligrams of sodium daily. None of the plans were vegetarian or used specialty foods.
The results were dramatic: Both the vegetables and fruits plan and the DASH diet reduced blood pressure. But the DASH diet had the greatest effect, especially for those with hypertension. Furthermore, the reductions came fast -- within 2 weeks of starting the DASH diet.
The second study was called "DASH-Sodium," and it looked at the effect on blood pressure of a reduced dietary sodium intake as participants followed either the DASH diet for blood pressure or an eating plan typical of what many Americans consume.
Participants were randomly assigned to one of the two eating plans and then followed for a month at each of three sodium levels. The three sodium levels were:
  • A higher intake of about 3,300 milligrams per day (the level consumed by many Americans)
  • An intermediate intake of about 2,400 milligrams per day
  • A lower intake of about 1,500 milligrams per day.
Results showed that reducing dietary sodium lowered blood pressure for both eating plans. At each sodium level, blood pressure was lower on the DASH diet than on the other eating plan. The biggest reductions were for the DASH diet at the sodium intake of 1,500 milligrams per day. Those with hypertension saw the biggest reductions, but those without it also had large decreases.
Those on the 1,500-milligram sodium intake eating plan, as well as those on the DASH diet had fewer headaches. Other than that and blood pressure levels, there were no significant effects caused by the two eating plans or different sodium levels.
DASH-Sodium shows the value of lowering sodium intake -- whatever your eating plan. For a true winning combination, however, follow the DASH diet and lower your salt and sodium intake.
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