One of the risk factors for high blood pressure is an unhealthy diet, so if you have high blood pressure, your doctor may recommend the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). This diet combines healthy foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol while emphasizing fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods. In clinical studies, combining the DASH diet with a reduced-sodium diet was shown to lower blood pressure by an average of 12/6 mmHg (systolic/diastolic) in those with high blood pressure.
DASH Diet: An Overview
Anyone can develop high blood pressure (also known as hypertension). In fact, more than 65 million Americans (nearly 1 in 3) have high blood pressure. Unfortunately, in more than 90 percent of cases, the cause or causes of high blood pressure are not known. But hypertension research scientists have found certain risk factors that increase a person's chance of developing high blood pressure. High blood pressure prevention involves minimizing the high blood pressure risks that can be controlled. One of these risk factors is an unhealthy diet.
The DASH eating plan, also known as the DASH diet, is a plan that has been shown in several research studies to lower blood pressure. "DASH" stands for "Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension." The DASH diet:
- Combines healthy foods that are low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and total fat
- Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods.
Combined with low sodium intake, the DASH diet has been shown to be as effective as a single blood pressure medicine in lowering blood pressure.
Where Did the DASH Diet Come From?
In the past, researchers tried to find clues about what in the diet affects blood pressure by testing various single nutrients, such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium (see Potassium and High Blood Pressure). These studies were done mostly with dietary supplements, and their findings were not conclusive. Then hypertension research scientists conducted two key studies: DASH and DASH-Sodium