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DASH Diet: 8 Simple Steps on Your Diet to Lower Blood Pressure and Improve Heart Functions

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DASH Diet: 8 Simple Steps on Your Diet to Lower Blood Pressure and Improve Heart Functions

4 min read


The DASH diet is a simple diet with many health benefits. This article explains how to follow the DASH diet to improve heart functions.

Medically reviewed by

iCliniq medical review team

Published At April 13, 2017
Reviewed AtMay 11, 2023


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?

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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:

  1. 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.

  2. Lowers Diabetes Risk: Some studies demonstrate that a DASH diet can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus and improve insulin resistance.

  3. 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


What Varieties of Food Are Permitted on the DASH Diet?

The DASH (dietary approaches to stop hypertension) diet includes the following.
- Healthy grains.
- Fish.
- Poultry.
- Nuts.
- Vegetables.
- Fruits.
- Low-fat dairy products.
- A small selection of sweets, red meats, and sugary drinks.


How Can Someone Begin the DASH Diet?

It is very simple to begin a DASH diet. The interested person should follow these points-
- They must consume more low-fat dairy products, fruits, and vegetables.
- They must consume fewer foods heavy in trans fats, cholesterol, and saturated fat.
- They must consume more fish, poultry, whole grains, and nuts.
- They must restrict their intake of red meat, fizzy drinks, and sweets.


What Is the DASH Diet to Prevent High Blood Pressure?

The DASH diet is a healthy eating regimen created to assist in the treatment or prevention of high blood pressure (hypertension). Potassium, calcium, and magnesium-rich foods are part of the DASH diet. These nutrients support blood pressure management. In addition, the diet restricts foods with added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium.


What Kinds of Fruits Are Allowed on the DASH Diet?

A DASH diet follower can select from various fresh fruits, including apples, oranges, and bananas. Berries, dates, and apricots all add diversity. In addition, they can choose frozen fruits without added sugar and fruit canned in natural juice rather than thick syrup.


What Foods Are Not Allowed on the DASH Diet?

When following the DASH diet, avoiding snacks heavy in sugar, fat, or salt, such as candies, cookies, or chips, is recommended. It also limits items that are heavy in saturated fat, such as fatty meats and full-fat dairy products.


What Is the Fastest Way to Decrease High Blood Pressure?

Some of the best methods for lowering blood pressure include- shedding extra pounds, giving up smoking, reducing alcohol and caffeine intake, prioritizing sleep, avoiding stress, eating less processed food, sugar, salt, and refined carbohydrates, exercising gently regularly (about 30 minutes every day), and taking prescription drugs to decrease blood pressure.


What Are Some Advantages of the DASH Diet?

The DASH diet modifies dietary habits for life to prevent the onset of hypertension (high blood pressure). It is intended to support changing eating patterns toward consuming enticing but nutritious foods and avoiding the onset of high blood pressure. Other benefits include-
- Improve bone strength (prevent osteoporosis).
- Lowers the risk of cancer.
- Helps in managing metabolic disorders like diabetes.
- Lowers the risk of gout.


Who Is Supposed to Follow the DASH Diet?

- DASH diet is a healthy eating program created to help treat or prevent high blood pressure (hypertension).
- The DASH diet has demonstrated considerable advantages in managing type 2 diabetes.
- Due to its emphasis on lowering dietary salt intake and promoting the intake of potassium, magnesium, and calcium, it is a favored diet in individuals with heart failure.


On the DASH Diet, How Many Calories Should an Individual Consume?

A person on the DASH diet can consume roughly 2,000 calories daily. The DASH diet's list of suggestions includes a variety of foods that can be consumed at regular intervals throughout the day.


How Much Exercise Is Necessary While Following the DASH Diet?

The DASH diet plan strongly emphasizes consuming large amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products, as well as more potassium and less sodium. The health benefits are multiplied when exercising regularly and following the DASH diet plan. To help lower and manage blood pressure, adults should engage in at least 2.5 hours of physical exercise per week. Simply 30 minutes, five days a week.


Does a DASH Diet Reduce Cholesterol Levels?

The DASH diet is a heart-healthy eating strategy that has been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Getting plenty of fiber (from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes), eating fish and leaner cuts of meat, and minimizing sugar and processed carbohydrates are some DASH diet elements related to lower cholesterol levels.


How Might the Dash Diet Benefit PCOS?

Clinical studies have shown that a modified DASH (dietary approaches to stop hypertension) diet will lessen PCOS symptoms. The DASH diet promotes weight loss, improves insulin sensitivity, and lowers the chance of developing chronic diseases. The following are some aspects of treating
- PCOS with the DASH Diet-
- Utilizing a diet based on statistics.
- Decreasing insulin resistance.
- Improving eating habits.


Is the Dash Diet Beneficial for Everybody?

The DASH diet is beneficial for maintaining excellent health and treating high blood pressure. In addition, a DASH diet may help lower blood pressure and minimize the risk of developing cardiovascular illnesses, diabetes, renal disease, and gout.
Source Article IclonSourcesSource Article Arrow
Dr. Saumya Mittal
Dr. Saumya Mittal

Internal Medicine


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