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What is the DASH Diet?
I had a question not too long ago about why we don't have information about the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet on the Dr. Gourmet Web site. It's a fair question and the answer is pretty simple.

The DASH Diet and the Mediterranean Diet
The DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is so successful because its foundations are drawn from research on the Mediterranean diet. Many of the researchers who took part in the initial DASH study were the same who detailed the benefits of the Mediterranean diet. 

Can Red Meat be Part of a Cholesterol-Lowering Diet?
Red meat consumption has been linked with poor cholesterol scores, breast, colon and rectal cancers, increased risk of diabetes and other chronic diseases. For a long time when I talked to my patients about eating healthier they would immediately tell me that they would stop eating red meat. 


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Reducing Your Risk of Heart Disease

What causes heart disease? Among others, the major culprits are lack of exercise, smoking, obesity and poor diet. These can also cause high blood pressure and diabetes, both of which are also risk factors for heart disease.

Under most circumstances, research done on lifestyle changes to prevent heart disease focuses on whether risk factors like high blood pressure and diabetes numbers are improved - not whether a person's risk of heart disease itself is improved. In an effort to measure whether that risk is improved or not through lifestyle modification, researchers at Johns Hopkins made use of data collected through a large-scale research study called PREMIER (Circulation 2009(15);119:2026-2031).

The study included over 650 men and women over the age of 25 who had been diagnosed with prehypertension or stage 1 hypertension (high blood pressure). Each person was randomly assigned to one of three lifestyle change groups.

The first group received printed materials regarding improving their diet and lifestyle and a single face-to-face consultation at the beginning of the study.

The second group was known as the “established intervention” group. They were given more specific recommendations, instructing them to reduce the amount of sodium in their diet, lose weight, and increase their level of physical activity.

The third group received the same instruction as the second group with regard to reducing sodium, losing weight and exercising, but they were also specifically taught to adhere to the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). (The DASH diet has many features of the Mediterranean Diet.)

After 6 months the researchers evaluated the participants' weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels and estimated their risk of heart disease, taking into account gender, smoking status and other variables.

They found that blood pressure, total cholesterol and HDL (good) cholesterol all decreased, while the actual risk of heart disease for those in both the established intervention group and the DASH group was markedly reduced – down 14% for the DASH group and 12% for the “established intervention” group.

What this means for you

Improving your diet and increasing your amount of exercise are two of the best ways for you to reduce your risk of heart disease.

First posted: May 27, 2009