Heart diseases are an ever-increasing healthcare burden over time. Hypertension (high blood pressure; BP) is one of the causes of heart failure (HF). Effective and evidence-based interventions are required for their prevention and management and can improve patient quality of life. Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet can have a positive impact on such patients. The DASH diet is a combination diet that can be helpful in HF management.
What Is a DASH Diet?
Diet plans for good health emphasize the consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, legumes, nuts, and healthy fats. The DASH diet is effective for heart failure risk reduction. The DASH diet is a typical dinner meal consisting of baked potato, lean meat, and many vegetables. The DASH diet can decrease BP and improve the lipid profile. It also helps in weight loss. As a result, the heart burden is reduced. Even if a person does not have hypertension, the diet is suitable to be followed in a regular diet plan.
How Does DASH Diet Reduce Blood Pressure?
The normal BP for adults is systolic BP (SBP; measures the arterial pressure during a heartbeat) is below 120 mmHg and diastolic BP (DBP; arterial pressure when the heart rests between beats)- is below 80 mmHg. A blood pressure of more than 140/90 mmHg is considered high BP.
The DASH diet can reduce BP in healthy individuals and with high BP. When people limit their salt (sodium) intake with the DASH diet, it lowers BP further. Therefore, the most significant reductions in BP are seen in people who consume low salt.
The low-salt DASH diet can reduce SBP by 12 mmHg and DBP by 5 mmHg in people with hypertension. On the other hand, for people with normal BP, it reduces SBP by 4 mmHg and DBP by 2 mmHg.
The DASH diet has shown the best result in people with moderately high BP and prehypertension (the intermediate stage between normal BP and hypertension). For people with severe hypertension, it can improve the response to antihypertensives and lower BP. The DASH diet can also decrease low-density lipoprotein (LDL; bad cholesterol) levels, reduce insulin resistance (insulin converts blood glucose into storage form), and the risk of developing diabetes.
What Should One Eat In A DASH Diet?
The DASH diet is a rich source of vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, and fish. It limits high saturated fats, such as fatty meats, egg yolk, and full-fat dairy products.
People with a DASH diet should select foods rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium, fiber, and protein. Further, the diet should be low in saturated fat and sodium.
What Are the Eight Simple Dietary Steps to Lower Blood Pressure and Improve Heart Functions?
Reduce Salt Intake: Intake of too much salt can put the heart under pressure due to fluid retention. Hence, it is wise to choose homemade foods to control excess salt. One should choose items in the diet low in inherent salt content. However, it should not include pickles, smoked, or cured foods.
Increase Grain Content: Eat whole grains such as whole-wheat bread, whole-grain cereals, brown rice, oatmeal, whole-wheat pasta, unsalted pretzels, and popcorn. It is because it can increase the fiber content of the diet. It further lowers cholesterol levels making one feel full.
Increasing the Content of Fruits and Vegetables: It can improve the vitamin and mineral content in the diet, including the potassium and magnesium in the fruits. Hence, it has an indirect effect on decreasing BP and improving heart disease. In fruits and vegetables, the calories are low and the fluid content is high. They also contain fiber. Also, the sweet restriction is pertinent. One does not have to avoid them as a whole. However, moderation is advised. Hence, fruits such as bananas are great for satisfying a sweet craving.
Potassium In Diet: Potassium derived from foods such as bananas, sweet potato, and spinach can lower BP. However, patients on potassium-sparing medicines should be cautious while on high-potassium diets.
Increase Yogurt Consumption: Low-fat yogurts are rich in protein, calcium, and probiotics. They improve nutrition while bringing down BP. Also, yogurt is known to reduce acidity.
Nuts and Legumes: Nuts and legumes contain proteins and fiber that lower the risk of heart disease. Nuts and legumes are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Hence, a modest intake of walnuts helps reduce heart illnesses.
Avoid Fats and Oils: Essential vegetable oils such as olive oil should be preferred over butter (as it contains saturated fats). People on a non-vegetarian diet should prefer lean meat, skinless chicken, and fish. However, they should limit the usage of egg yolk.
How Can DASH Diet Be Beneficial in Women?
The DASH diet benefits people who are obese or have metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes mellitus, PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), or postmenopausal weight gain. Weight reduction improves heart function, symptoms, and HF hospitalizations. Studies show a higher chance of weight gain in women above 40 years. Hence, it is helpful for many female conditions and disorders.
What Are The Other Advantages Of the DASH Diet?
The DASH diet is high in antioxidants, micronutrients, and fiber, and low in saturated and trans fats (harmful to the body). Such dietary patterns of nutrients are suggested to address the underlying disease mechanism of HF through decreased inflammation and reactive oxygen species (unstable reactive body molecules), restoring micronutrient status, and combating malnutrition. The benefits of the DASH diet other than decreasing hypertension and chances of HF are:
Decreases Cancer Risk: It has been proved that people following the DASH diet have a low risk of certain cancers, such as colorectal (colon and rectum) and breast cancer.
Lowers Diabetes Risk: Some studies demonstrate that a DASH diet can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus and improve insulin resistance.
Lowers Metabolic Syndrome Risk: According to a study, the DASH diet can reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome by about 80 percent.
The DASH diet is not tough to follow. It allows a certain level of flexibility in choosing the food items one prefers. Maintaining a food diary helps record daily goals and start small changes. However, the changes can vary depending on the body type, general activity, and other associated medical conditions. Several studies have demonstrated DASH diet interventions for BP changes. Still, consistency among diets is difficult due to variable sources used for diet nutritional analysis. Further, the use of the DASH diet in diagnosed HF patients is not the standard of care in its management as it has not been fully evaluated in clinical trials.
Frequently Asked Questions