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DASH diet benefits go beyond better blood pressure

A variety of fruits and vegetables within a heart-shaped frame.

June 3, 2019—A widely recommended blood-pressure-lowering diet, known as DASH, may also help some people reduce their risk of heart failure, a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine suggests.

The study involved nearly 4,500 adults who were free of heart disease when it started. Researchers analyzed their health records over about 13 years and asked about their eating habits.

Among people younger than 75, those who followed the DASH diet closely were 40% less likely to be diagnosed with heart failure when compared with those whose eating habits were least like the DASH diet.

What is heart failure?

Heart failure doesn't mean that the heart has stopped working—just that it's not working as well as it should. So it can't pump enough blood to keep up with the body's needs. As a result, it may get bigger in order to pump more blood or it might beat too fast.

Over time, that can lead to fatigue, breathing problems, swelling and other serious problems.

People with high blood pressure are at higher risk for heart failure, which might help explain why the DASH diet could be helpful for both conditions.

What is DASH?

DASH is short for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The eating plan emphasizes:

  • Fruits and vegetables.
  • Whole grains.
  • Nuts.
  • Poultry and fish.
  • Low-fat dairy products.

It also limits:

  • Red meat.
  • Saturated fat.
  • Salt.
  • Sweets.
  • Sugary beverages.

The DASH diet is usually recommended to reduce blood pressure, but it has also been shown to improve cholesterol levels.

While the diet's effects on heart failure risk need to be confirmed with other studies, it appears to be an all-around healthy choice for the heart.

Learn more about following the DASH diet .

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