4 Easy Ways to Improve Your Health with the DASH Diet

Family eating healthy meal

If you’re searching for a diet that could improve your health and wellness, you may want to consider some findings from U.S. News & World Report. The publication evaluated the most popular diet plans, and for the sixth year in a row, rated the DASH diet #1 overall in its Best Diets of 2016 list.

As its name implies, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet was originally developed by The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to help people prevent and treat high blood pressure. However, U.S. News & World Report also places the diet at the top for diabetes and healthy eating.

Continuing to Prove its Benefits

DASH is nothing new. We’ve been recommending it since the mid-1990s as a way to lower blood pressure. But the diet—high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats, and low in saturated fats—continues to prove its worth.

In a study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, 400 people with mildly elevated blood pressure who were not taking blood pressure-lowering medication were randomly assigned to follow one of three diets: a typical American high-fat diet, a similar diet plus more fruit and vegetables, and the DASH diet.

People on the DASH diet reduced their 10-year heart disease risk the most, largely because of drops in their blood pressure and cholesterol. The reduction was 18 percent more than those on the American diet and 11 percent more than those on the increased fruits and vegetables diet.

The researchers noted the reduction was most remarkable among African Americans, who tend to have worse outcomes than Caucasians from cardiovascular disease. They experienced a 22 percent decrease in their heart disease risk over those eating a regular diet.

Heart disease is a leading cause of death in the United States, and high blood pressure is one of the major causes. The findings are important because people often have hypertension and don’t know it.

4 Easy Ways to Improve Your Health

The good news about the study is that it doesn’t take much to reap the benefits of a heart-healthy diet. It’s all about making different choices. Here are some suggestions:

  • Add a salad or vegetables at lunch instead of a bag of chips.
  • Choose a piece of fruit for dessert instead of cake.
  • Cook with olive oil.
  • Skip the pepperoni and top your pizza with broccoli, spinach, and mushrooms.

Unsure of your risk for heart disease? Lancaster General Health’s Heart Health Profiler can help you compare your actual age to your heart’s biological age, and calculate your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

author name

Christopher L. Hager, MD

Christopher Hager, MD, is a family medicine physician with Novara, a concierge primary care practice. Dr. Hager is a graduate of Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine and the Lancaster General Hospital Family Medicine Residency Program. His areas of special expertise include prevention/wellness, sports medicine, and management of chronic diseases (diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol).

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About LG Health Hub

The LG Health Hub features breaking medical news and straightforward advice to help individuals of all ages make healthy choices and reach their wellness goals. The blog puts articles by trusted Lancaster General Health clinical experts, good 'n healthy recipes, videos, patient stories, and health risk assessments at your fingertips.


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