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DASH diet: An approach to stop hypertension

DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is the new trend gaining popularity for its very benefits, hypertension being the first. It is a mixture of old beliefs and modern advancements, as the scientists have extracted the diet from ancient dietary principles. The diet has been studied many times and is proven to be the best for curing hypertension.

World health organization states that hypertension or high blood pressure is the most common disease affecting about 1billion people worldwide. Hypertension is a chronic disorder leading to diseases such as stroke, heart diseases, congestive heart failure, blindness and kidney diseases.

Hypertension is becoming a significant cause of death with a death rate of 1 in every 8 people. There has been a rise in the number of patients suffering from diseases such as hypertension, obesity, coronary artery diseases and diabetes observed by clinicians of the United States in the last 50 years. The drastic increase in the number of people suffering from hypertension has become a cause of concern for the doctors.

DASH is a diet program developed by the News and world report, U.S. and has been proven as the best diet plan to deal with hypertension for the eight consecutive year in a research comparing the DASH diet with about 40 other diets.

According to the researches, DASH when combined with a low-sodium diet works better than any anti-hypertension medicine for lowering the blood pressure.

History of DASH diet

The research for diet affective for lowering the blood pressure was initiated in the 1990s.it was in 1992 when the National Institute for Health began to spend funding to find out if specific changes the diet could help control hypertension.

The trials were put on individuals who were asked to follow the diet strictly and do not make any changes in their lifestyle for reducing the elements of confusion from the study. The systolic blood pressure was found to be decreased by about 6 to 11 mm Hg just by applying dietary intrusions.

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 The DASH diet was introduced for the first time in 1996.  It was proposed in the American heart association meeting and published one year later by the New England Journal of Medicine. The diet was based on 456 people and the aim was to try different diets to check how they affect the dietary patterns for lowering blood pressure of the individual.

Three diets were put into trial which included:

  1. A standard American diet (control diet)
  2. Fruits and vegetables diet (similar to control diet but consisting more fruits and vegetables, and lesser snacks and sweets)
  3. A combination diet (more quantity of fruits, vegetable, nuts low-fat dairy with reduced amount of fats and cholesterol)

Usually the American diets consists of high saturated fats, glycemic load carbohydrates,omega-6 fatty acids and artificial additives, and are proven to be of no use in treating diseases such as hypertension. On the other hand the diet rich in fruits and vegetable and the combination diets are nutritious and consists potassium, calcium, fiber, magnesium and protein, these nutrition are linked with lower blood pressure.

While all the diets provide 3000 mg of sodium (more than the amount suggested by dietary guidelines for Americans) none of them showed any change in weights of the individuals. The combination diet showed the most effect in lowering blood pressure, while the suffering from hypertension saw a much decrease the blood pressure those individuals who were trying the diet but didn’t have hypertension had a maintained blood pressure.

The conclusions of this study were proved to be of major importance for the Dietary Guidelines for Americans in 2010 and for further editions.

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What does the DASH diet include?

The diet typically consists of fruits, vegetables, dairy products lean meat and micronutrients. The serving guide for DASH diet patients is:

  • Fruits: about five meals per day.
  • Vegetables: about five servings per day
  • Carbohydrates: about seven servings per day
  • Lean meat products: two or lesser servings per day
  • Low-fat dairy products: two servings per day
  • Nuts and seeds: 2-3 times a week

Carbohydrates are suggested to provide protective micronutrients to the body. Low carb diets can cause decreased caloric intake. The healthy carbs that are included in the DASH diet are:

  • Beans and legumes
  • Cracked wheat, millets and oats (whole grains)
  • Kale, broccoli, spinach, collards and mustards (green leafy vegetables)
  • Fruits low in glycenic index

While fats are not the most favorite topic when talking about diets, studies prove that the good fats help by providing essential fatty acids and prevention inflammations. Some of the good fat products included in the DASH diet are:

  • Flax seeds
  • Avocados
  • Nuts
  • Olive oil
  • Hempseeds and
  • Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

When eaten in a balanced amount fats can helps increase the HDL, lowering the small and dense LDLs.

The DASH diet is nutritious, safe, helps in weight management and is very easy to follow these qualities don’t jus help the taking the first rank over other diets but also makes DASH the most popular diet for public and for health professionals.

Other benefits of DASH diet

  • The best part about DASH diet is that it is a healthy eating program and not just a fad diet.
  • The DASH diet reduces the risks of cardiovascular diseases remarkably.
  • The diet is very beneficial to lower the blood cholesterol levels.
  • The diet has also proved to decreases the levels of glucose, LDL-C, triglycerides and insulin resistance, linking it to pharmalogical therapy for metabolic syndromes.
  • The diet improves the control of type-2 diabetes and helps lower the blood pressure in the patients of diabetes mellitus typr-2.
  • DASH diet is very helpful in weight management when followed regularly.
  • DASH diet is also proven help for patients suffering diverticular, celiac or chronic liver diseases.
  • The diet helps prevent heart failures and helps in the management of chronic heart diseases.
  • The diet has also shown significant reduction in cases of colorectal cancer.
  • Studies prove that the diet reduces the overall risks of life threatening diseases hence helping to increase the life span.
  • DASH diet is helpful for both hypertensive and normotensive people.
  • The diet is helpful for those suffering from hyperuricemia lowering the levels of serum uric acids
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Some facts while following the DASH diet

  • For the diet to work properly the servings and food guides prescribed by the doctor should be strictly followed.
  • The diet suggests the reduction of sodium to about 1500mg/day.
  • Minimally processed and fresh food should be eaten for better results.
  • DASH diet suggests limiting the intake of added sugar and sweets to about 5 servings per week.
  • The diet requires meal planning for better management and regularity.
  • People who are lactose intolerant might need modifications in the diet to replace dairy products with lactose-free alternatives.
  • People trying the diet for the first time might experience bloating and gas in the initial days.

Summary:  

DASH diet has been proven to be the best alternative for those suffering from hypertension. The diet is easy to follow and just involves a few changes in the lifestyle resulting in satisfying outcomes. If you are suffering from hypertension or just want to be health, this diet might be for you.

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