DASH Diet Reduces Chances of Heart Disease

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A new study is showing that the DASH diet lowers heart disease. DASH stands for "Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension." It has helped some patients lower blood pressure by more than 10 points in less than two weeks. "This new study also found the DASH diet cut the risk of heart attacks by close to 20 percent," explained CBS4 Medical Editor Dr. Dave Hnida. "It also lowers your risk of cancer, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease."

DASH diet users decreased their coronary risk

The research shows that subjects who ate the DASH diet likely decreased their 10-year risk of coronary heart disease by 18 percent over those who ate a more typical American diet; and by 11 percent over those who ate a diet rich in fruits and vegetables but otherwise similar to a typical American diet.

"The DASH diet is high in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy," Hnida said. "The key is these foods contain lots of calcium, potassium and magnesium. It's believed the foods relax blood vessels, prevent plaque build-up in arteries and prevent cells from becoming cancerous," says Hnida. "It's important to note, you cannot get the same effects from taking these nutrients in pill form."

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"One of the most noteworthy findings is the remarkable reduction in heart disease risk among African Americans," says Nisa M. Maruthur, M.D., M.H.S., an assistant professor of medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and one of the study's authors. "African Americans in the United States tend to have worse outcomes than whites from cardiovascular disease, and here is one way they may be able to help prevent it."

Maruthur says the reason that the diet likely reduces coronary heart disease risk is that it reduces both blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels, two independent risk factors for coronary disease. "It's no secret that we should be eating less saturated fat and more fruits and vegetables," she says. "But how do we get the general population to adopt the DASH diet? The public health benefits could be enormous."

"Poultry, fish and nuts do not have as much saturated fat as red meats do, they also contain more Omega-3, which controls inflammation of the arteries and, in some cases, of the heart itself. That inflammation, along with cholesterol, is often the cause of heart disease. Sugary drinks and sweets have the opposite effect," said Maruthur. "Cholesterol causes a problem when it oxidises in the body and the antioxidants in fruits and vegetables prevent that from happening," she said. "People should try to eat as many different colours as possible: they need to eat a rainbow." She said that eating low-fat dairy products would "limit the damage" caused by cholesterol.

The plan, also recommended by the American Heart Association, emphasises consumption of low-fat dairy products, whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts as well as fruits and vegetables. It also calls for a reduction in fats, red meat, sweets, and sugary drinks.

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