DASH diet reduces heart stress as well as high blood pressure, new study shows
‘Our study represents some of the strongest evidence that diet directly impacts cardiac damage, and our findings show that dietary interventions can improve cardiovascular risk factors in a relatively short time.’
The popular DASH diet reduces heart stress and damage that often resulted in heart disease, according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
DASH stands for “dietary approaches to stop hypertension.” It emphasizes fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts, including consuming four to five daily servings of fruits and vegetables, six to eight servings of whole grains, two to three of low-fat dairy products and no more than six one-ounce servings of lean meat, poultry or fish a day.
The Mayo Clinic says the diet is a “lifelong approach to healthy eating that’s designed to help treat or prevent high blood pressure.”
Beyond that, a study done by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the Harvard Medical School found the diet does even more.
“It was demonstrated that the DASH diet reduced cholesterol and blood pressure, and then our study goes beyond that and shows that it lowers damage to cardiac heart muscles,” said Dr. Stephen Juraschek, the study’s lead author.
Juraschek and his colleagues took stored specimens from research conducted at four U.S. medical centers from 1997 to 1999. In that previous study, researchers enrolled 412 participants with elevated blood pressure and randomly assigned them to the DASH diet or a controlled diet designed to reflect a typical American diet.
Those in each group were assigned a low-, medium- or high-sodium level. All of the participants had all of their meals and snacks provided, with one meal a day eaten under observation. The team analyzed the specimens for “three biomarkers, or measurable substances in the blood that have been shown to predict cardiovascular events in adults without known cardiovascular disease.”
The results showed that biomarkers linked to heart damage declined by 18%, and those associated with heart damage and inflammation dropped by 13%.
“Our study represents some of the strongest evidence that diet directly impacts cardiac damage, and our findings show that dietary interventions can improve cardiovascular risk factors in a relatively short time period,” Juraschek said.
U.S. News & World Report named the DASH diet the second-best overall diet, behind the Mediterranean diet, earlier this year.
Juraschek said the DASH diet could be especially important for Americans because heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and uncontrolled blood pressure rates are on the rise.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one person dies every 36 seconds of cardiovascular disease in the United States.
Juraschek said the diet does result in a high level of carbohydrates but still has multiple health benefits.
Aside from having to learn how to prepare meals and being specifically designed to lose weight, the diet be a little more challenging for those with dairy or food allergies, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.
“It’s not a small decision to eat a healthy diet, but it can have important implications for long-term heart health,” Juraschek said.
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