It routinely plays a major role in general health diets, and a recent study shows that the DASH diet is excellent for the heart as well.
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) program is designed to lower high blood pressure. However, a recent study suggests that it also reduces inflammation, heart damage, and stress.
The DASH diet is beneficial for improved heart health
According to the research and the corresponding author Dr. Stephen Juraschek, the study provides some of the best evidence that diet directly affects heart damage, and the data suggest that dietary treatments can alter cardiovascular risk factors in a very short time. In Boston, he is Assistant Professor of Medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and Harvard Medical School.
The results underscore the need for a low-sodium DASH diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to reduce heart damage over time, Juraschek said in a BIDMC press release. A dietitian who was not involved in the study confirmed this.
According to Nicole Roach, a registered nutritionist at Lenox Hill Hospital in NYC, the DASH diet is more than just a low-salt diet. Other DASH diet components include eating fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, chicken, fish, and nuts while reducing saturated fats, cholesterol, red meat, sweets, and sugary drinks.
Juraschek’s team examined blood samples from hundreds of US clinical trial participants who followed the DASH diet or a diet designed to replicate a more normal (and less healthy) American diet in Boston research. The study focused on three blood biomarker proteins associated with heart problems.
Biomarkers associated with heart injury and inflammation decreased by 18% and 13%, respectively, in those following the DASH diet. Those who combined the DASH diet with lower salt consumption showed the highest decreases in indicators of cardiovascular damage and stress of 20% and 23%, respectively, but there was no significant effect on inflammation.
The DASH diet did not reduce the stress biomarker alone, but it did decrease 19% in those on a low-sodium diet, whether on the DASH diet or the control diet.
The researchers found that reducing salt intake alone had little effect on heart damage or inflammation.
Juraschek said the study will have significant clinical implications, and the results should bolster public resolve for public action that will promote the DASH nutritional regimen and reduce salt intake in the US and abroad.
While cardiovascular disease is still the leading cause of death, Roach claims that many changeable variables like diet and lifestyle could be addressed.
When it comes to salt, the American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams per day, or about a teaspoon, and an optimal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for most people with high blood pressure, she added.
Roach made the following recommendations to help people reduce their salt intake:
Cooking without salt and consider using fresh or dried herbs and spices; Keep the salt shaker out of the kitchen. This can help reduce the temptation to add salt to cooked foods. Another trick is choosing fresh foods versus canned, packaged, and processed foods. When people can’t find anything fresh, they can look for labels that indicate low sodium, no or no salt, or extremely low salt. When buying canned food, rinsing with water in a pasta colander and avoiding items that contain more than 300 mg of salt per serving can help with reading food labels.
The new study, supported by the United States Institute for Health, Heart, Lung, and Blood, was published online in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.