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DASH diet may help lower blood pressure

July 10th, 2005

Blood Pressure Monitor

One out of four American adults currently has high blood pressure.  For those over 60 years of age the proportion goes up to one in two.  Americans are at an increased risk for heart attacks and strokes because of high blood pressure. 

Many doctors claim the solution may lay in the diet.  The DASH diet may be the answer. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.  If your systolic pressure (the upper number) is between 120 and 139 you may be considered pre-hypertension.  Anything over 140 is considered Hypertension. Many doctors will prescribe medication at this point including Lisinopril, Diovan and or Hydrochlorothiazide (a water pill).  

"In the 1970s, we found that blood pressures were lower in vegetarians, who eat little or no fat and cholesterol and lots of fruits, vegetables, and grains rich in potassium, magnesium, and fiber," says Frank Sacks, who helped author the DASH study.  This diet approach may also cut the risks for getting diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis.


In 2003, Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association, published the reason the DASH diet is effective.  Apparently the food in the diet acts as a diuretic, causing more frequent urination.  In previous years the reason was unclear as to why the DASH diet worked so well.  The journal reports that the study confirms that people that were on the DASH diet can effectively lower their blood pressure without the use of medication.  Participants were able to excrete salt easier and in greater amounts while lowering their blood pressure. 

The question remains as to whether the DASH diet effect is from the combination of the food.  This diet has an abundance of nutrients including potassium and calcium which together cause natriuresis (abnormally high levels of sodium in the urine).  Experts believe there is more to decreasing blood pressure than just increasing the intake of calcium and potassium.


“I think the DASH diet acts as a natural diuretic without the adverse effects,” says Genjiro Kimura, M.D., professor and chairman of internal medicine and pathophysiology at Nagoya City University Graduate School of Medical Sciences in Japan. “The DASH diet provides healthy food for people of all ages. I think the diet should be recommended for everyone, regardless of age, not only for reducing blood pressure but also to prevent heart disease and cancer.”

The DASH-2 study combined the original DASH diet study with different levels of sodium intake.  The researchers found that the lower the sodium intake, the better the diet worked.  So it is important to address the other issues that create high blood pressure.  If you are overweight, losing as few as ten pounds can be beneficial.  Researchers recommended lowering the daily sodium intake to no more than 2,400 mg per day; 1500 mg optimal. 

Read the labels on food products.  Try to limit the foods to 480 mg of sodium per serving.  Aerobic exercise for 30 – 45 minutes three or more times a week will also help.  Limit the amount of alcohol consumption to no more than two servings per day.

Here are the serving goals for each group based on a 2000 calorie a day diet. 

Food Group Daily Servings Serving Sizes
Grains and grain products 7 to 8 a day 1 slice bread, half a cup dry cereal, one half a cup of cooked rice, pasta, or cereal.
Vegetables 4 to 5 a day 1 cup raw leafy vegetable, one half of a cup of cooked vegetable, 6 ounces of vegetable juice
Fruits 4 to 5 a day 6 ounces of  fruit juice, 1 medium fruit, one quarter of a cup of dried fruit, one half of a cup fresh, frozen, or canned fruit
Low-fat or non-fat dairy food 2 to 3 a day 1 cup skim or 1% milk, 1 cup low-fat yogurt, 1 and a half ounce of part-skim or non-fat cheese
Meats poultry, & fish 2 or less a day 3 oz. cooked lean meats, skinless poultry, or fish
Nuts, seeds, & bean 4 to 5 a week one third cup nuts, 2 Tbs. sunflower seeds, half cup cooked beans
Added fats, oils, & salad dressing 2 to 3 a day 1 tsp. oil or soft margarine, 1 tsp. regular mayonnaise, 1 Tbs. low-fat mayonnaise, 1 Tbs. regular salad dressing, 2 Tbs. light salad dressing
Snacks & sweets 5 a week 1 Tbs. maple syrup, sugar, jelly, or jam, 1 cup of lemonade, 3 pieces of hard candy, sorbet, 15 jellybeans  Sweets should be low in fat.

Whether or not you are taking medication or have high blood pressure, you need to see your doctor and discuss any changes that you want to do to your way of life.  It is not wise to start a diet and exercise program without consulting a physician and it can be harmful to your health.  Please visit the official DASH website at for complete information on this diet.  You can also call 1-800-575-9355 to hear a recorded message about high blood pressure prevention and treatment.

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By Nicole Wilson
Best Syndication Staff Writer

Organic Growing

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Copyright 2005 Best Syndication                                            Last Updated Sunday, July 11, 2010 01:18 AM