DASH Away Your High Blood Pressure

DASH stands for "Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension". The DASH diet is an eating plan designed to lower an individual's blood pressure. The DASH eating plan does not require any special foods and does not have any hard-to-follow recipes. It does call for a certain number of daily servings from various food groups. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can increase the risk for heart disease and stroke, the first and third leading causes of death in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). About 73 million people in the U.S. have high blood pressure. Another 59 million people have pre-hypertension, a condition that increases the likelihood of developing high blood pressure and other complications such as kidney problems and blindness. High blood pressure is dangerous because it makes the heart work too hard, hardens the walls of your arteries, and can cause bleeding in the brain. Research has shown that hypertension can be prevented or lowered by following the DASH eating plan, which includes eating less salt.

What you eat greatly affects the likelihood of developing hypertension. The DASH meal plan has been shown to improve blood pressure control and may even decrease the need for medication. It is rich in foods high in calcium, potassium, magnesium, protein and fiber. These nutrients are known to lower blood pressure. Dietary supplements (vitamin pills) of these nutrients are not a substitute for the real nutrients found in their natural form in food. Foods such as fruits, vegetables, fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds, and nuts are the healthy foods recommended on this meal plan. It also contains less salt, sweets, sugars, and sugar-containing beverages, fats, and red meats.

The diet plan has some basic requirements:

  1. Grains: 7 to 8 daily servings
  2. Fruits: 4 to 5 daily servings
  3. Vegetables: 4 to 5 daily servings
  4. Dairy: 2 to 3 low-fat daily servings
  5. Meat/fish: 2 daily servings
  6. Fats/oils: 2 to 3 daily servings
  7. Beans/nuts/seeds: 4 to 5 weekly servings
  8. Sweets: 5 weekly servings (at most)

According to the National Institute of Health, this diet can reduce blood pressure in just 14 days. The research is not that clear when it comes to cholesterol reduction, however. Many people lose weight on the DASH diet, but it is not a weight reduction diet. It is a delicious way of eating that has many health benefits from several key nutritional choices:

  • Eat less salt (avoid processed , canned foods)
  • When possible eat whole grain breads & cereals (whole wheat pasta, whole grain cereals)
  • Eat lots of fruits & vegetables (pears, bananas, broccoli, spinach, tomatoes)
  • Eat low fat dairy products (low or no-fat milk, yogurt, cheese)
  • Eat meat in moderation (poultry without skin, lean meats, fish)

For more information visit:

National Institutes of Health external link
The Mayo Clinic external link
Harvard University external link
ClinicalTrials.gov external link