Dash Diet: A dietary approach to control high blood pressure

By: Dr. Fizza Zulfiqar

Hypertension – defined as high blood pressure, is one of the common medical conditions that increase the risk of Cardiovascular i.e., heart problems, kidney diseases and can also affect brain presenting as stroke. WHO estimates 1.3 billion to be affected hypertension globally in 2020. Pakistan has also witnessed a steady increase in prevalence of hypertension both in urban and rural populations over the period of years.

There are multiple causes of hypertension broadly divided into two categories, firstly Essential/Primary Hypertension which has no identifiable cause. Secondly, Secondary hypertension that arises due to other causes for instance kidney problems, thyroid disorders, sleep apnea, old age, stress, smoking, adrenal gland problems, dietary factors (too much salt consumption), excessive weight gain and many others.

Many of the risk factors associated with hypertension are modifiable i.e., they can be controlled. Lifestyle modification including exercising, dietary changes are most common initial steps if taken can control and prevent further increase in blood pressure. Further, multiple medications with different mechanism of actions are available to control blood pressure as well, when prescribed by your doctor that is suitable for you.

The purpose of this article is specifically to highlight on significance and raise awareness about” DASH DIET “and its benefits in controlling high blood pressure.

What is DASH diet firstly?

DASH means “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension”, it is a diet that is designed to treat as well as control increased blood pressure. There is no special recipe it’s just that daily and weekly servings of your meal should include a lot of fruits, vegetables, low- dairy products, whole grains, lean meats, beans, fish, controlling your salt intake (less sodium) and avoiding sweetened food and beverages.

Hence, it is a perfect diet enriched with fiber, low to moderate in fats with high levels of potassium, magnesium and calcium, a healthy plan for your better health. Numerous research studies have shown significant decrease in blood pressure following the DASH diet plans.

It restricts daily intake of sodium between 1500 mg/day (about 3/4 of teaspoon) to 2300(equals to one teaspoon) mg/day. And while following DASH diet plans the number of servings can be adjusted according to the total calories one has planned to consume each day.

For instance, 2000 calories per day plan as advised in NHLBI (National Heart, Lung, Blood institute) research includes,

If this diet is augmented with increase physical activity promising outcomes can be seen, what is more important is you should include healthy food items in an average in your diet. Multiple resources are available on internet for DASH diet recipes that give variety of options to include make these healthy foods as a part of your daily plan reducing your blood pressure, weight, cholesterol also decreases the risk of osteoporosis, diabetes, and stroke.

The writer is based in Utah, USA and can be reached at [email protected]