Combination of DASH Diet and Low Sodium Diet Linked to Reduced Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States. A recent study suggests that reducing sodium intake and following the DASH diet may help lower blood pressure in people with hypertension.
Participants in the study included 412 people with systolic blood pressure that fell into four categories: less than 120 mmHg; between 130 and 139 mmHG; between 140 and 149 mmHG; and 150 or higher mmHg. Over the course of four weeks, half of the group followed a low-sodium diet, while the other half followed two different versions of the DASH diet, either regular or low sodium intake. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension and DASH diets include a lot of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains as well as low or fat-free dairy, fish, poultry, beans, seeds, and nuts.
At the conclusion of the study, the researchers found that the participants who reduced their sodium intake had lower systolic blood pressure than those who had high sodium intake. They also found that participants who followed the DASH diet but did not reduce their sodium intake had lower blood pressure compared with the participants with similar sodium intake who did not follow the DASH diet. In addition, participants who followed the DASH diet and reduced their sodium intake had lower blood pressure than those with high sodium intake who followed their regular diet.
The reduction in blood pressure was highest for participants who began the study in the highest blood pressure group. Participants with systolic blood pressure above 150 mmHG had the biggest reduction when following the low sodium DASH diet.
Researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center conducted the study. It was presented to the American Heart Association on November 12, 2017.
The DASH diet is high in nuts and legumes, low-fat dairy, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables and low in red and processed meat, sugar-sweetened drinks, and sodium. Studies suggest that it may also help reduce the risk of stroke, heart disease, heart failure, kidney stones, and diabetes and might also help with weight loss. As always, when considering a major change in diet, speak with your health care practitioner for best practices.
US dietary guidelines recommend a daily maximum of 1,500 milligrams of sodium for people with high blood pressure or a high risk of developing it. The daily recommended maximum for most other people is 2,300 milligrams.
If you’re concerned about salt intake, consider substituting low-sodium options for flavoring food, including natural herbs and low-sodium tamari, which is similar to soy sauce. It’s also recommended that people cut out or reduce processed foods, choosing less salty items at restaurants, adding less salt when cooking at home, and tasting food before adding salt at the table.