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  • Linda Salamin

Why you should try the DASH diet if you have hypertension

Reduce hypertension naturally

Hypertension can lead to cardiovascular disease. Patients are mostly treated through medication.

But there is a natural way to reduce and even reverse hypertension - through what you eat.

Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine said way back in 460 BC:

"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food"

If Hippocrates were alive today, he would surely endorse the DASH diet.

The DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) diet was created by Thomas Moore, MD and his team in 1992 as a natural alternative to blood pressure medicine. It is endorsed by the American National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) to safely and effectively reduce hypertension, a primary risk in heart disease and stroke. That's why it was created but there are also other benefits such as reducing obesity (with exercise) and helping to treat diabetes.

The plan

The DASH diet doesn't tell you what to eat and what not to eat. Rather, it gives guidelines according to specific food groups such as fruits, vegetables, pulses, nuts, whole grains, and dairy products. In other words, eating a whole food diet – and eliminating processed foods (where salt is added to enhance the taste). Salt intake is limited as is sugar and saturated fats. For this reason, you are more likely to stay on this diet for a longer period. It doesn't eliminate any food groups and resembles the Mediterranean Diet, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables but also fish and some meat and also allows for moderate alcohol consumption.

Another advantage is that you don't have to count calories – there is a daily caloric indication depending on your age, physical activity and reason for dieting. A truly personalized plan. The food plan is shown in serving portions.

Benefits – the proof

Contrary to trendy diets, the DASH diet is evidence-based and has been proven to be effective. The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has researched clinical studies, notably a study conducted by the American Heart Association in 1996 and has concluded that

"DASH lowers blood pressure in people with high blood pressure but also normal blood pressure even without lowering sodium intake".

According to the Center for Diet and Activity Research based in the UK, the US Nurses' Health Studies, the Mitchelstown Cohort Study and the Epic Norfolk Study are 3 studies that strongly suggest that adherence to the DASH diet can reduce hypertension and, in turn, limit cardiovascular disease (CVD) and stroke. Some studies have shown that there is a direct link between salt intake and hypertension. However, the total elimination of salt from your diet isn't advisable according to the American Heart Association that states our bodies need salt to function normally.

Results from a clinical study by the NHLBI proved that the DASH diet lowers blood pressure. However, in this study increased exercise was observed with the diet.

What are the drawbacks?

The DASH diet could prove to be more expensive than your present diet. Why? Because this eating plan is made up of whole foods only such as fresh fruits and vegetables, cereals and nuts, which can be more costly.

Another drawback is that you need to make meals and that means to cook. For some people who buy processed foods to be reheated – this could be a challenge. That said, the trade-offs are increased health benefits, naturally.

DASH diet apps and books

The DASH Diet is not a commercial fad. It is free for all who take an interest in it. You can access a document with full information here, online at NHLBI along with suggestions for planning menus. This is one of the reasons that this diet has taken many years to become known to the public. There were no books published or advertisements for the DASH diet.

But today, this has changed. Although most of the information you need is found on NHLBI , there are also several published books, and applications in Google Play or the Apple store, many are free.

The DASH diet has also been voted the best diet for 7 years running in the US News & World Report and for 2019 it was voted 2nd Best Diet Overall.

So the DASH diet is a natural and personalised way to possibly reduce blood pressure and with a little exercise added - it could contribute to weight loss and help treat diabetes too! All without counting calories.


Disclaimer: The information in this article is not medical advice. If you are suffering from a health issue you should consult your health care provider before undertaking any form of treatment.


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