What Is The DASH Diet? Experts Show How It Can Help Lower Blood Pressure

What Is The DASH Diet? Experts Show How It Can Help Lower Blood Pressure

What Is The DASH Diet? Experts Show How It Can Help Lower Blood Pressure

Hypertension presents a significant health challenge in India, as highlighted by the World Health Organization (WHO). Nearly 27% of non-communicable disease-related deaths in the country are attributed to cardiovascular diseases, affecting 45% of individuals aged 40-69. Hypertension, or elevated blood pressure, is a major contributing factor to cardiovascular issues. WHO notes that high blood pressure remains inadequately controlled due to factors such as low awareness about hypertension, insufficient primary care services, and inadequate follow-up.

In response to this concerning trend, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLAB) recommends the adoption of the heart-healthy DASH diet, which stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension,” as a measure to combat hypertension.

What Is The DASH Diet?

DASH Diet For Lowering Blood Pressure

Dr. Amit Bhushan Sharma, Director & Unit Head- Cardiology at Paras Health, Gurgaon, explained to the OnlyMyHealth team that hypertension impacts the arteries by subjecting them to increased pressure. This elevated pressure can strain the heart and result in symptoms such as severe headaches, chest pain, dizziness, shortness of breath, anxiety, and nausea.

According to NHLAB, the DASH diet emphasizes daily and weekly nutritional objectives rather than specific foods. The meal plan recommended by the DASH diet includes:

  • Consumption of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
  • Incorporation of fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils.
  • Limiting foods high in saturated fats, such as fatty meats and full-fat dairy products, and avoiding coconut, palm kernel, and palm oils.
  •  Avoidance of beverages and sweets containing added sugars.
  •  Selection of foods rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, fiber, and protein.
  • Preference for foods low in sodium.

NHLAB suggests the following daily servings for individuals following the DASH diet:

Grains: 6–8 serving

  • Meats, poultry, and fish: 6 or fewer servings
  • Vegetables: 4–5 servings
  • Fruit: 4–5 servings
  • Low-fat or fat-free dairy products: 2–3 servings
  • Fats and oils: 2–3 servings
  • Sodium: Limited to 2,300 mg

Heart Healthy Diet

DASH Diet For Lowering Blood Pressure

The Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health highlighted the DASH diet’s emphasis on reducing carbohydrate intake while increasing consumption of protein and unsaturated fats. Referencing a clinical trial, they noted that substituting 10% of calories from carbohydrates with protein, particularly plant proteins, or monounsaturated fats (such as those found in olive oil, canola oil, nuts, and seeds) resulted in lowered blood pressure, reduced levels of LDL cholesterol (often referred to as “bad” cholesterol), and decreased triglycerides in adults with early-stage hypertension.

Importantly, the trial indicated that these benefits were not simply a result of consuming more fats and protein but rather from replacing an equal amount of calories from carbohydrates.

In summary, leading health organizations endorse the DASH diet as an effective strategy for reducing blood pressure and mitigating the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, kidney diseases, and gout.