What is the DASH Diet?
The DASH Diet was created by a branch of the US Department of Health and Human Services. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.
The US Department of Agriculture considers the DASH diet not only an excellent option for anyone facing hypertension or high blood pressure, but also an optimum eating plan for people of all ages and levels of health.
The DASH diet has been named the best overall diet by the US News and World Report for three consecutive years. Each year, the US News and World Report compares 28 diets based on seven different factors, including short-term weight loss, long-term weight loss, easiness to follow, nutrition, safety, diabetes, and hearth health.
They are graded on a five point scale. The DASH diet ranked 4.1 out of 5 stars as the best overall diet over the other 28 diets three years in a row.
These are quite impressive rankings considering the US News and World Report grades many other well known, popular diets by a panel of dietary experts.
Anyone who is interested in a dietary lifestyle change would be well served in learning about the DASH diet. It offers the most rounded approached to all of the above factors.
What is Hypertension?
What is Hypertension? Hypertension basically means high blood pressure. Blood pressure measures the pressure of blood against the arterial walls
while the heart pumps blood through the body. Blood pressure is read with two numbers. For example, a reading of 120/80 or below is considered normal blood pressure. The first number, or top number, is the systolic blood pressure. The second number, or the bottom number, is the diastolic blood pressure. When the blood pressure is above 140/90, it is considered high blood pressure, and when it the blood pressure reads above 120/80, but less than 140/90, it is considered pre-hypertension. Pre-hypertension will most likely lead to hypertension.
- What are Symptoms of Hypertension?
There are many reasons why a person might develop high blood pressure Some reasons include .
- Too much sodium in the body due to a sodium rich diet
- Underlying condition of the nervous system, kidneys, or blood vessels
- Hormonal levels
- Being African American
- Over consumption of alcohol
- Family history of hypertension
- Adrenal gland disorders
- Preeclampsia in pregnancy
- Some medications
- Renal artery stenosis
- What are Symptoms of Hypertension?
Most cases of hypertension go unnoticed by the person experiencing high blood pressure because there are rarely outward symptoms. People usually realize they have high blood pressure when they visit the doctor and have their blood pressure checked. Not having your blood pressure checked regularly is very dangerous. This is especially true as a person ages because hypertension can lead to heart disease or kidney problems while being unaware of the high blood pressure issue.
Several symptoms of a very dangerous disease known as malignant hypertension include severe headaches, vomiting, nausea, confusion, vision changes, and nosebleeds. If you have these symptoms, go directly to an ER.
Testing for Hypertension
Your doctor will take your blood pressure reading several times before diagnosing you with hypertension.
Multiple readings taken at different times of day are then averaged to diagnose high blood pressure.
A person’s blood pressure changes quite a bit through the day, so it can be difficult to get an accurate reading of actual high blood pressure.
Your blood pressure is lowest when you first wake up in the morning and can increase up to 30% throughout the day due to fluctuations in hormones, activity, stress levels, and eating.
You can also purchase a blood pressure monitor to take your blood pressure reading at home. Your health care provider can advise you on what monitors are best and how to properly use them.
At home, you can take your blood pressure at the same time each day to see if there are fluctuations in the readings.
This should give the most accurate estimate of whether or not your blood pressure is decreasing or increasing due to lifestyle changes.
Where did the DASH Diet Originate?
The DASH diet originated out of clinical studies by the National Institute of Health. These studies were designed to test which diets are best suited to reducing hypertension.
The National Institute of Health examined three different diets in the clinical studies and then examined their results.
In the studies, two experimental diets were used and compared against a third control diet. The control diet was low in key nutrients, such as calcium, potassium, fiber, and magnesium, with high levels of fat, which was similar to the “typical American diet.”
The first experimental diet was similar to the control diet, but it included a larger portion of fruits and vegetables and fewer snacks and sweets.
The second experimental diet was the DASH diet, which is high in fruits and vegetables, high in fiber, low in fat, and has higher protein than the control diet.
Nearly 10,000 people were screened for the clinical study, with only 459 people being chosen. These 459 people were close to the demographic target population, who were men and women averaging an age of 46 with an average blood pressure of 160/80.
This would be considered high blood pressure. African-Americans and other ethnic groups made up 67% of the clinical trial group. Due to the fact that minority populations are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, this was a representative sample.
Women made up 49% of the study group. Study participants ate one of the three randomly assigned diets for eight weeks. Each diet contained about 3400 mg of sodium.
Alcohol was limited to two beverages per day and caffeine was limited to three beverages per day
The study showed that the DASH diet lowered blood pressure an average of 5.5 mm Hg for systolic blood pressure and 3.0 mm Hg for diastolic blood pressure compared with the control group.
The minority and hypertensive study subjects had the greatest reduction in blood pressure.
The diet that was similar to the control diet but included more fruits and vegetables was also successful in dropping blood pressure, but to a more moderate degree.
For all test subjects, even those who were not hypertensive, the DASH diet dropped blood pressure within two weeks of starting the diet.
Side effects of the study were a reduction in constipation for the DASH diet group and for the fruits and vegetables group, showing that fruits and vegetables reduce constipation.
An additional study was conducted at the end of the original DASH study to determine if lowering sodium in conjunction with the DASH diet would produce even better results.
It was based on a large sample of participants numbering 412 people, in a multi-center, randomized clinical study.
The participants were adults with prehypertension or were hypertensive. They were randomly assigned to two different diet groups. One group was the DASH diet group and the control group was given an “average American diet.”
The participants were further broken down into three subgroups with three different levels of sodium being 3000 mg, 2400 mg, or 1500 mg. The participants ate these diets for a total of 30 days.
Both the DASH diet and control diet at lower sodium levels reduced blood pressure. The greatest reduction in blood pressure was from the 1500 mg per day DASH diet. There was an average of 8.9/4.5 mm Hg blood pressure reading in this study group. Hypertensive participants experienced an even greater reduction in blood pressure averaging 11.5/5.7 mm Hg.
Lowering sodium to 1500 mg per day will decrease blood pressure somewhat, but implementing the DASH diet at 1500 mg per day will create incredible results. There is sound scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of the DASH diet to reverse hypertension.