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DASH It All!
Are you looking to improve your health through diet? DASH it all.

DASH is an acronym that stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It is one way to reduce hypertension without drugs. A DASH diet emphasizes grains, fruits, low-fat dairy, nuts, and vegetables while limiting intake of fats and red meats, and reducing salt intake. 

Hypertension is a major cause of strokes and heart attacks. Pre-hypertension puts one at risk for kidney disease.

The DASH diet has been shown to reduce both hypertension and pre-hypertension. It often shows benefits after as little as two weeks. A study published in the April 2008, Journal of Pediatrics showed that teens with pre-hypertension lowered their blood pressure through a combination of the DASH diet, increasing intake of potassium, and restricting salt. Fifty percent of the teens who followed this plan achieved normal blood pressure levels at the end of three months.

Helps Young and Old

DASH seems to help older people, too. A study presented at the 2009 International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease (ICAD 2009) in Vienna showed that DASH not only reduced hypertension in the elderly, but it also apparently reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s Disease. The study followed nearly 4000 individuals over the age of 65 for eleven years. Individuals that most closely followed a DASH diet retained higher cognitive abilities than those with the lowest DASH scores. The food groups that provided the greatest benefits were vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and nuts/legumes.

DASH offers the greatest benefits when combined with exercise. And no, you do not have to maintain Olympic levels of activity to gain from exercise. A University of Toronto study showed that for older people moderate physical activity – like a long daily walk – actually proved more beneficial than strenuous exercise. 

The DASH diet is similar to the Mediterranean Diet, which also emphasizes vegetables and fruits while de-emphasizing consumption of meat. 

So do your heart – and your brain – a favor.  Up your intake of fruits and vegetables, and nuts, while cutting back on meat.

For more information on DASH try these links:

The DASH diet
Its effect on Teens 
The DASH diet and Alzheimer’s

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By Mark N. Lardas. Copyright © 2009 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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