DASH Diet Lowers Blood Pressure, Helps Heart Health – Healthline

Changing your diet could have the most significant impact on reducing high blood pressure.
That’s according to a new simulation study that used the latest evidence from clinical trials and meta-analyses on the effects of lifestyle changes on stage 1 hypertension.
Stage 1 hypertension is typically treated with lifestyle changes rather than medication.
The research findings will be presented this weekend at the American Heart Association’s Hypertension Scientific Sessions 2022.
The researchers’ findings suggest shifting toward a DASH diet may provide the greatest benefit to lowering hypertension compared with other lifestyle changes. Additionally, they estimated that adopting a DASH diet may prevent 15,000 heart disease events such as heart attack and stroke among men and 11,000 such events among women.
The other lifestyle changes examined included common complementary treatments for hypertension such as increasing physical activity, sustaining weight loss (if necessary), and moderating alcohol consumption.
Overall, the researchers said lifestyle changes to reduce systolic blood pressure to below 130 mm Hg may prevent 26,000 heart attacks and strokes and reduce healthcare costs over the next 10 years.
The study has not been peer-reviewed or published yet.
The DASH diet stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.
It’s considered a dietary pattern geared toward lowering or maintaining healthy blood pressure. It’s supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute as a way of preventing and managing hypertension.
Food groups in the DASH diet include:
The DASH diet also recommends limiting or avoiding the consumption of red meat, high sodium foods, added sugars, and sugar-sweetened beverages.
Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, an inclusive plant-based dietitian in Stamford, Connecticut, and owner of “Plant Based with Amy,” says the research shows that the DASH diet does indeed help heart health and decreases the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Amy Bragagnini, MS, RD, CSO, an oncology nutrition specialist at Trinity Health Lacks Cancer Center in Michigan and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says the DASH diet was one of the first things she learned in her initial training 20 years ago and the diet is still going strong today.
However, while the health benefits are plentiful, Bragagnini says she finds it can be challenging for people to make the shift.
Nutrition experts say it’s best to make small changes and avoid trying to change your entire diet overnight.
Instead, try the following steps for a more sustainable shift toward healthier eating.
Bragagnini says the first step she recommends is taking an honest inventory of your everyday food and beverage intake.
Try asking yourself the following questions:
Check food labels over the course of a few days, suggests Bragagnini.
This will help you get a fair idea of how much sodium and added sugar you are consuming.
“Now become aware of the recommendations,” she told Healthline. “For someone without hypertension, the American Heart Association suggests you limit your sodium intake to no more than 2,300 mg per day. They also recommend you limit your added sugar intake to 25 grams per day for women and 36 grams per day for men.”
“While you are checking food labels, be sure to take into account how much actual salt and sugar you are using in your cooking and meal preparation,” says Bragagnini.
Examples of how quickly it adds up, says Bragagnini, include:
“In addition to salt, many people add sugar to their coffee (1 teaspoon = 4 grams) and may add it to their oatmeal. It all counts,” she says.
“Now that you have an idea of how much (salt or added sugar) you are already consuming, start to make small changes,” says Bragagnini.
You don’t have to make sweeping diet changes overnight, so start slow,” added Gorin.
Gorin suggests incorporating a fruit or a vegetable into every eating occasion.
Making these changes doesn’t mean eating flavorless food, she adds.
“There are so many seasonings you can use in your cooking,” Gorin told Healthline. “These include garlic and onion powder, rosemary, dried oregano and basil, paprika, and red pepper flakes. You’ll be amazed at how much flavor these seasonings add to your meals.”
Bragagnini’s suggestions for spicing things up include:
Dietitians often encourage clients to lower their intake of red meat and processed meats.
This is because consuming too many of these foods can increase the risk of heart disease and cancer, explains Bragagnini.
“Once again, take inventory of how often you are consuming these foods,” she says. “If you find you are eating red or processed meats five days a week, make it a goal to reduce it to three times a week to start.”
Bragagnini’s tips for reducing red meat include:
Go easy on yourself and remember to practice patience.
“It will take some time to acclimate your taste buds away from sugar and salt but with patience and planning the [American Heart Association] goals are attainable. Experiment with different spices and flavors other than salt when cooking,” Bragagnini says.
“Finally, improve your snack choices,” says Bragagnini.
Choosing snacks wisely can help you reach your fruit and vegetable goals and also help you follow the DASH diet recommendations, she says.
Bragagnini’s better snack options to try include:
“A big part of why following a diet often doesn’t work out is that people feel like they must give up everything they love,” Gorin said. “Don’t give up all the foods you love.”



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