DASH Diet

A Healthy Diet for Patients with Hypertension or Cardiovascular Disease

You may wish to get some advice on a good diet for people with high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease. Please recognize that diet is always a very controversial topic with many unfounded theories. This material is limited to dietary advice that has the backing of scientific trials, or the imprint of the Harvard School of Public Health. Although neither is infallible, they are the best that we have to rely upon presently, and have yielded some interesting conclusions.

The Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan was subjected to an NIH trial. It was found that "People who follow this diet have a significant and worthwhile reduction in blood pressure over two months. The diet is based on some quite simple principles that you should be able to adopt. It is not especially low in salt. Therefore, if salt restriction is requested by your physician, you should also consult the patient information handout on a low salt diet.

If you would like to learn more about the diet, please go to the National Institute of Health, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute website for DASH

The DASH diet contains advice to focus your intake on fresh vegetables, fruits, grains, and unsalted nuts with fish and poultry for meats and low-fat dairy products.

The DASH trial investigators have produced a book with a number of recipes. It is authored by; Moore, T., Svetsky, L., Lin, P-H and Karanja, N. The title is: "The DASH Diet for Hypertension". The publisher is "The Free Press, New York, published first in 2001." There are some copies that you could borrow from the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension office, please call the office to check availability (202) 444-9183.

The purpose of this diet is to provide a healthy eating habit and one that lowers high blood pressure. It is not a weight reducing diet. If you do not have high blood pressure, the diet is also a good choice since it is well-balanced and nutritionally sound. If you are overweight and wish to lose weight, then a diet with reduced caloric content and reduced carbohydrates would be needed, in combination with a regular exercise regimen of 30 minutes of aerobic exercise every day of the week, if practical and within your capabilities. Please consult the patient information handout on a weight reduction program.

If you have severe kidney disease, and your serum creatinine is above the 3 mg/dl, or if you have ever had an abnormally high serum potassium level, you should not use the DASH because it is rich in potassium. A diet that is high in potassium is normally beneficial, except in these circumstances. Additional information is available in the dietary potassium handout for patients. In you are in doubt, you can discuss the diet at your next clinic visit. An interesting book on diet is: "Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy" by Walter C Willett M.D. He is a professor at Harvard and Chairman of the Department of Nutrition. This book is produced by the Harvard School of Public Health. It is an orthodox view of diet, in contrast to the many books that promote one idea or another. You can order this from amazon.com or from general book stores. We have two copies for loan in the Division.

A second book published from the Harvard School of Public Health is a more general overview of how to select a healthy lifestyle. It is called "Mind Your Heart" and is authored by Aggie Casey, R.N, and Herbert Benson, M.D. This is published by the Free Press. There are two copies for loan in the Division. Call first, to ensure that we have a copy available.

Please recognize that nephrologists are not nutritionists and are not able to give you detailed advice on diets. That is why we are directing you to some orthodox sources of information.

For those who would like to have a nutritional consultation, you can contact:

Nina Kolbe 
Cell phone: (202) 390-8044 
Email: ninakolbe@aol.com