Hypertension: The DASH diet may be best for reducing heart attack risk

Worldwide, about one in three people aged 30–79 have hypertension — or in other words, high blood pressure.
A new simulation study found that following the DASH diet may be the most effective lifestyle intervention for reducing cardiovascular disease in people with mild hypertension.

Studies have found that this dietary change could prevent nearly 3,000 deaths in the U.S. only
The World Health Organization estimates Trusted Source that worldwide 1.28 billion adults aged 30-79 have high blood pressure or hypertension. Two-thirds of them live in low- and middle-income countries. Hypertension can be a deadly condition, causing 7.5 million deaths each year.

Previous research has identified several lifestyle changes that can lower a person’s blood pressure, including dietary changes, regular exercise, and reducing alcohol consumption. A new report from Trusted Source found that for those in the early stages of hypertension, diet — and one diet in particular — stood out as the most effective way to maintain healthy blood pressure. The report was presented in early September at the 2022 American Heart Association Hypertension Scientific Session in San Diego.

According to the new report’s estimates, the DASH diet could prevent more than 15,000 heart disease events among men and 11,000 among women in the U.S. only The authors of the report conducted a simulation study to assess future hypertension outcomes. About 61% of the model population has access to health care. About half are women. Interdisciplinary researcher and educator Dr. Kendra Sims, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, is the study’s co-principal investigator. He explained the methodology behind the report to Medical News Today:

In our case, the simulation consists of drawing on several sources of information, including the Census, that reflect current and expected changes in the U.S. population. Among people initially simulated without heart disease, we included risk factors derived from careful research studies of heart attack and stroke events. This method allows us to confidently project the number of people who are likely to develop heart disease in the next decade,” he said.

Hypertension and blood pressure. Blood pressure is when the blood exerts external pressure against the artery walls. Hypertension occurs when the blood pressure is higher than what is considered good for the arteries. To measure a person’s blood pressure, a healthcare professional takes two readings:

Systolic blood pressure measurements record the pressure exerted on the artery walls during a heartbeat.
Diastolic blood pressure measurements record the pressure exerted on the artery walls between heartbeats.
Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury — mm Hg — and is expressed as a systolic measurement versus a diastolic measurement.

The severity of high blood pressure can be categorized Trusted Source in stages:

Elevated — 120-129 systolic/less than 80 diastolic
Stage 1 hypertension – 130-139 systolic/80-89 diastolic
Stage 2 hypertension — more than 140 systolic/more than 90 diastolic
Hypertensive crisis — more than 180 systolic/more than 120 diastolic
The invisible killer
Hypertension is sometimes referred to as the “invisible killer.

Hypertension: The DASH diet may be best for reducing heart attack risk

Millions of working-age people walk around with high blood pressure,” said Dr. Sims, “which is asymptomatic, but also a leading cause of preventable disability and death. WHO estimates that 46% of adults with hypertension do not know they have it. The study’s model also revealed a troubling surprise. We found that young- and middle-aged adults with stage 1 hypertension aren’t as low risk as you — or even your doctor — might think!” she said.

The report predicts that 8.8 million people ages 35-64 have untreated stage 1 hypertension. What is the DASH diet? Development of the DASH diet began in the 1990s, and it has been refined over the years. “DASH” stands for “Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension.

Dr. Jennifer Wong, medical director of noninvasive cardiology at MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute of Orange Coast Medical Center, who was not involved in the study, explained the cardiology benefits of the DASH diet to MNT: The DASH diet encourages foods high in potassium, magnesium, calcium, fiber and protein [because] these nutrients help lower blood pressure.

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