If you have high blood pressure (hypertension), have a talk with your doctor about starting a DASH diet, full of fruits and vegetables. It may lower your blood pressure as well as your medication does.
DASH, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, is a research study being done at five medical centers around the country. Its purpose: to find out if losing weight, becoming more physically active or eating less salt or less fat could replace medications as a way to lower blood pressure.
Early results are amazing.
The group of 459 adults (half women, 60 percent black) were divided into three groups. One-third ate a typical American diet. Their blood pressure didn't budge, of course.
Another third continued their typical eating plan, but added extra fruits and vegetables. In just two weeks their blood pressure came down a little.
Better still, the third group switched to a low-fat diet, including lots of fruits and vegetables. That diet lowered their blood pressure as much as a typical blood-pressure-lowering medication would. And without cutting salt, without increasing exercise, without losing weight. Amazing!
That's not to say those other lifestyle habits aren't important for lowering your blood pressure. They are. Research has shown them to be effective, and future results from DASH may make their effects even more clear.
But what is important here is eating well may be as powerful for you as taking medication. And the side effects of eating less fat and more fruits and vegetables are good news, because high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
A mountain of good solid research has shown that lowering fat, especially saturated fat, can lower your cholesterol and your risk of heart disease along with it. Other research has shown that both men and women who eat the most fruits and vegetables have the lowest risk for stroke. What a great package deal!
But be smart. Do not stop taking your blood pressure medication. Go talk to your doctor first and discuss the appropriateness of the DASH diet for you.
The DASH dieters indulged in eight to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. For those eating 2,000 calories, daily food choices were divided this way:
Seven to eight servings of grains and grain products.
Four to five servings of vegetables.
Four to five servings of fruits.
Two to three servings low-fat or non-fat dairy foods.
Two or fewer servings meat, poultry or fish
Four to five servings nuts, seeds and legumes per week.
Limited amounts of fats and sweets.
Here is a one-day sample menu.
Breakfast: 6 ounces orange juice, 8 ounces 1 percent milk, 1 cup cornflakes with 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 medium banana, 1 slice whole wheat bread with 1 tablespoon jelly, and 1 teaspoon soft margarine.
Lunch: 3/4 cup chicken salad, 1 small pita bread, raw vegetable medley (three to four carrot and celery sticks, two radishes, two lettuce leaves), 1 1/2 ounce part skim mozzarella cheese, 8 ounces 1 percent milk, 1/2 cup fruit cocktail in light syrup.
Dinner: 3 ounces herb baked cod, 1 cup scallion rice, 1/2 cup steamed broccoli, 1/2 cup stewed tomatoes, spinach salad ( 1/2 cup raw spinach, 2 cherry tomatoes, 2 cucumber slices, 1 tablespoon light Italian dressing), 1 small whole wheat dinner roll, 1 teaspoon soft margarine, 1/2 cup melon balls.
Snack: 1/4 cup dried apricots, 1 ounce mini-pretzels, 1/3 cup mixed nuts, 12 ounces diet ginger ale.
For more information about portion sizes and continuing test results, you can visit the DASH Web site at http: //dash.bwh.harvard.edu/
Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant to the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center and Vanderhorst & Associates in Baltimore.
Pub Date: 4/29/97