- Can A Healthier Diet Lower Blood Pressure?
• Answer: Researchers have long known that certain lifestyles help keep a lid on blood pressure.
• Among them are vegetarian diets, avoiding heavy alcohol use, watching one’s weight, and for some, restricting salt.
• In the DASH study by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, whole foods were tested rather than artificial supplements. They tried to plan a diet like a vegetarian one, but allowed small amounts of meat low in fat.
• They found that a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fats and cholesterol, with low-fat dairy products, lowered both systolic and diastolic blood pressure within a week.
• (Be advised that low fat dairy products can induce more cholesterol then whole dairy products. Other info about milk products here...)
• Individuals with high blood pressure had the greatest drop- 11.5/4.5 mm. These results are similar to what those on one prescription drug for hypertension might see-- and without the harmful side effects.
• The researchers noted, however, that the dietary intervention was ineffective for those who used alcohol.(1)
• Since alcohol is a known risk factor for hypertension, the fact that it was shown to increase risk in this study was not surprising.
• However, the fact that it would do this for those who reported any alcohol use does raise the interesting question of whether alcohol use is given sufficient weight in assessing risk of hypertension.
Alcohol and hypertension question...
• In the words of the DASH researchers, " We found that a diet reduced in total and saturated fat and rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods can significantly lower blood participants who had high blood pressure, the DASH diet, lowered blood pressure to the same extent as does an antihypertensive medication. We believe the DASH diet offers an important approach to preventing and treating hypertension.
• One note of caution: If you have high blood pressure and are taking blood pressure medications, please don't just stop your medicines and start the diet. Discuss the idea with your doctor first."
• More about dash diet...
1. Svetkey LP; Simons-Morton D; Vollmer WM; Appel LJ; Conlin PR; Ryan DH; Ard J; Kennedy BM Effects of dietary patterns on blood pressure: subgroup analysis of the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) randomized clinical trial. Arch Intern Med 1999 Feb 8;159(3):285-93
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