DASH Diet Helps to Reduce High Blood Pressure

Medications and exercise are strategies that can be used to help reduce high blood pressure. Diet also has a role to play in treating hypertension and prehypertension, and the DASH diet is an effective way to help lower blood pressure.

Hypertension or high blood pressure is defined as systolic pressure of 140 or higher and  diastolic pressure of 90 or more. Prehypertension is diagnosed when the patient’s systolic pressure is 120 or higher and the diastolic pressure reading is 90 or higher.

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, and this eating program can provide results, including increased brain function, very quickly. Some people who have adopted the DASH diet report seeing lower blood pressure in about two weeks.

How the DASH Diet Works

A person who is eating 2,000 calories per day on the DASH diet would eat the following types of foods:

Grain Products
Seven or eighth servings per day is recommended. A serving is equal to a slice of bread or a cup of ready-to-eat cereal. For cooked rice, pasta or cereal, 1/2 cup is equal to a serving.

Meat, Poultry and Fish

No more than two servings of this type of food per day. A serving is approximately three ounces or lean meat, skinless chicken or fish.

Fruits and Vegetables

Four or five servings of fruits and the same amount of vegetables should be consumed daily, according to the DASH diet guidelines. A serving of fruit is equal to a medium piece of fruit, 1/4 cup of dried fruit or 1/2 cup of fresh, frozen or canned fruit. Six ounces of fruit juice is also considered a serving.

A serving of vegetables is six ounces of vegetable juice or 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables. A one-cup serving of raw leafy vegetables also counts as a serving.

Dairy Products

This eating plan includes low-fat milk and dairy products. Two or three servings per day are included on the list. A cup of yogurt, eight ounces of milk or 1 1/2 oz. of cheese are considered to be a serving.

Beans, Nuts and Seeds

These foods have a place in the DASH diet. Four or five servings per week should be consumed. A serving of one of these foods is made up of 1/2 cup of cooked beans, 1/3 cup of nuts or 1 Tablespoon of seeds.

Fats and Oils

A certain amount of fat is required to stay healthy, and this eating plan allows for two or three servings each day. A serving of fat or oil is a teaspoon of soft margarine or vegetable oil. A tablespoon of low-fat mayonnaise or light salad dressing is also considered to be a serving.

Sweets

People following the DASH plan can have five servings of sweets each week. A serving is an eight-ounce serving of lemonade, a tablespoon of sugar, jelly or jam, or 1/2 oz. of jelly beans.

DASH Diet Can Help to Improve Brain Function

People who follow the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet reap the benefits of improved cardiovascular health, and the results of a new study conducted by researchers at Duke University indicate that it may help to improve brain functioning, too.

The study, the results of which were published in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association, followed a total of 124 people. The men and women who participated all had been diagnosed with high blood pressure. The average age was 52 years old, and most of the group were at least 15 pounds overweight.

Participants were divided into three groups. One of the groups were instructed to follow the DASH diet. This eating plan includes fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy products. Carbohydrates make up a large portion of the daily calories, and high-cholesterol foods are avoided.

The second group of participants in the study followed the DASH diet in conjunction with a program of regular aerobic exercise. They worked out three times a week for 30 minutes at a time, and the sessions were supervised by research staff. The third group in the study didn’t follow any particular diet or exercise routine.

Cognitive Ability Test Results

To measure how diet and exercise can affect a person’s mental functioning, the participants in the study were asked to perform certain tasks using a paper and pencil.


When the four-month study concluded, test results showed the participants who were in the group following the DASH diet in combination with aerobic exercise had an average increase in brain function of 30 percent.

The participants who followed the DASH diet in combination with exercise lost an average of 19 pounds during the four months they were involved in the study. Their systolic blood pressure (the top number of the blood pressure reading) was lowered by an average of 16 points, while the diastolic pressure (the bottom number on the reading) went down by an average of 10 points.