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Hypertension/High Blood Pressure Health Center

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DASH Diet Works Like Hypertension Drug

Blood-Pressure-Lowering Diet Can Cut Need for Drugs
WebMD Health News

May 19, 2003 -- The DASH diet lowers blood pressure. Now researchers know why -- and the findings could help you cut down on hypertension drugs.

New blood pressure guidelines show that hypertension is a problem for tens of millions of Americans. And a huge clinical trial recently showed that nearly everyone with high blood pressure should be taking diuretic drugs -- "water pills."

These are relatively safe drugs, but they do have side effects. Now researchers find that the DASH diet -- created to fight high blood pressure -- works just like water pills. One member of the study team is Frank M. Sacks, MD, professor of cardiovascular disease prevention at the Harvard School of Public Health. Sacks is one of the inventors of Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension -- the DASH diet.

Sacks tells WebMD that like water pills, the DASH diet speeds the rate at which a person gets rid of excess sodium. If they followed a low-salt version of the DASH diet, he says, many people could stop taking the drugs.

"There are people who can avoid any hypertensive drug use," Sacks tells WebMD. "If people eat the DASH diet with low salt intake -- especially older people -- their blood pressure goes down 15 points. That is just fine and dandy. That is what most people need to reach their goal."

What's the DASH diet? It's based on 2,000 calories a day. It calls for:

  • 4-5 servings of vegetables a day
  • 4-5 servings of fruit each day
  • 7-8 servings of grains or grain products a day
  • 2-3 servings of low- or nonfat dairy products a day
  • No more than two 3-ounce servings of lean meat, poultry, or fish in any day
  • 2-3 tablespoons of fats and oils a day (27% of calories as fat, including fat already in other foods)

The DASH diet is really, really good for you. It's heart healthy. It's low fat, so you'll stay trim. It can also cut your risk of getting cancer, says Maureen Gardner, RD, a clinical dietitian at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla.

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