Health Team

Study: Diets rich in veggies, fruits ward off hypertension

The DASH diet, which stands for Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension, is helping those with high blood pressure reduce their medications.

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Spring is a busy time in Maurice Darden's backyard garden.

The rich produce from his garden is part of his everyday healthy pattern of eating. But he wasn’t always so health-conscious.

“I had gained quite a bit of weight,” he said. “I was at about 214 (pounds), and I got into a study at Duke called the DASH diet.”

DASH stands for Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension.

Duke University nephrologist Dr. Crystal Tyson says the DASH diet’s focus on more fruits and vegetables is key.

“It’s been shown to lower blood pressure just as effectively as adding a single blood pressure drug,” she said.

High blood pressure, one of the most common health concerns in the United States, is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. Eighty-one person of those who are aware of their condition are on blood pressure medications.

Dr. Pao-Hwa Lin, a Duke nephrologist, had a hand in designing the DASH diet in a study funded by the National Institutes of Health in 1993. The fruit and vegetable recommendations aren't that daunting - just four to five servings of dark, colorful vegetables every day.

One serving equals a half-cup of a cooked vegetable or 1 cup raw.

“In general, Americans are not eating enough fruits and vegetables,” Lin said. “Way below recommendation.”

Don’t forget four to five servings of fruit per day. Half of your grains should be whole grain, and choose only lean meats and skim milk. Go sparingly on sweets.

Darden doesn’t think of it as a diet.

“If you say, ‘I'm on a diet,’ that means you're going to lose weight. I'm more concerned about being healthy,” he said.

That's why he exercises more and loves to use his blender to mix up orange juice, bananas, pineapple and yogurt. Then there's his juicer - with carrots, pineapple, celery and apples.

Darden is also committed to low sodium, shopping for no-salt chips and using salt substitutes for flavoring.

It's worked for him.

“I had high blood pressure, and now I don't have high blood pressure,” he said.

Duke is recruiting patients for a new study on the DASH diet. Researchers are looking for 16 adults with hypertension and stage 3 chronic kidney disease. Those patient typically have more difficulty controlling blood pressure and are on more than one medication for it.

Researchers want to know if the DASH diet is safe for them and as effective as it is in patients with normal kidney function.

Participants would need to come to the Duke study center for one meal each day, Monday through Friday. Duke will provide the food for three weeks. Call 919-660-6671 for more information.

Learn more about the DASH diet online.



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