The DASH Diet

The Dash Diet

Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension

A diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products might act as a natural diuretic. The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) may help reduce blood pressure without the use of medication, but you should consult with your doctor for the details.

Previously, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet has demonstrated substantial blood pressure-lowering effects, but the reason for the beneficial effects is unclear. Results from the new study indicate that the DASH diet promotes salt excretion, similar to diuretic drugs, which increase urine production. Diuretic medications are widely used to treat high blood pressure. The effects appear most pronounced in people who are sensitive to the blood pressure effects of salt.

The blood pressure-lowering effects of the DASH diet were first reported in 1997. A subsequent study known as DASH-Sodium evaluated the blood pressure effects of the diet at different levels of salt intake and showed that the blood pressure benefits of the DASH diet were greatest at the highest level of salt intake. The current study used data from DASH-Sodium to clarify and confirm the relationship between blood pressure and salt excretion, or natriuresis.

The new analysis involved 375 adults whose blood pressure ranged between normal and mildly elevated without blood pressure medication. The patients were randomly assigned to consume a DASH diet or a control diet for three consecutive 30-day periods.

During each 30-day evaluation, patients in both dietary groups had a different level of salt intake. The patients’ blood pressure was measured on five of the last nine days of each 30-day feeding period. In addition, a 24-hour urine sample was obtained during the last week of each study period to determine salt excretion.

Blood pressure and salt excretion were plotted graphically for each patient. Results in a widening of the vessel opening.

People on the DASH diet excrete salt more easily and in greater amounts as well as reducing their blood pressure. The impact of the DASH diet decreases as the level of salt intake is decreased. The DASH diet lowers blood pressure more effectively in people that are highly sensitive to sodium.
The DASH diet lowers blood pressure by an action that involves salt excretion, an effect similar to diuretic drugs.

It is well known that diuretics exert strong blood pressure-lowering effects in patients who have sodium-sensitive hypertension and whose blood pressure is very sensitive to changes in the amount of sodium intake. Overall, about half of all hypertensive patients are sodium sensitive. African Americans and elderly people are two groups that are sodium sensitive.

It is not known whether the blood pressure-lowering effects of the diet are caused by specific foods or a combination of certain foods. The diet is rich in potassium and calcium, two nutrients that cause natriuresis, but the effects on salt excretion seem much greater than either of those two. This suggests that a combination of factors is involved in the blood pressure effects.

Some people with mildly elevated blood pressure may be able to reduce blood pressure with the diet alone. For patients who require blood pressure-lowering medication, the DASH diet would probably enhance the effects of the medication, much as diuretics do when added to other blood pressure medication.

Since diuretics can cause side effects, the DASH diet offers a safer alternative to diuretic drugs.

The DASH diet acts as a natural diuretic without the adverse effects of drugs. The DASH diet provides healthy food for people of all ages. The diet is recommended for everyone, regardless of age, not only for reducing blood pressure but also to prevent heart disease and cancer.

Classified as a lifestyle intervention, the DASH diet is the first to have a known mechanism of action. If people follow the DASH diet from childhood, there is a possibility that hypertension may not occur in adulthood at all.

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