heart health

Baked red snapper with zesty tomato sauce represents one of the many delicious and heart-healthy recipes that are part of the DASH eating plan.

May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month and, according to nutrition research by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the DASH eating plan has been scientifically proven to lower blood pressure.

NIH has new, user-friendly consumer materials that encourage more people to follow this heart-healthy diet.

The DASH — Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension — eating plan emphasizes vegetables, fruits, and whole grains and includes fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and healthy oils. It focuses on reducing sodium and limits foods that are high in saturated fat — including fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, and tropical oils — as well as limiting sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages.

The eating plan is aimed at helping with high blood pressure, or hypertension, a leading risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and other health problems.

To make it easier for consumers to follow the plan, the NHLBI has developed new materials that include tips on reducing salt and sodium when dining out or cooking at home and on gradually making the move to DASH. The materials feature new food photography, a more conversational tone, and an updated look and feel, and they include more than 100 heart-healthy recipes adapted from a diverse array of cuisines, including Native American, Latino, Asian, and African-American food traditions.

In addition to these materials, the NHLBI also provides information on why the DASH eating plan works, a worksheet for assessing current food habits, and website content that encourages people to try new foods and learn how to make old favorites heart-healthy.

Note: Before you begin any changes to your diet, please consult your physician(s).

About the author

Holly Nicastro, Ph.D., MPH, Program Director, Clinical Applications and Prevention Branch, Division of Cardiovascular Sciences, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), National Institutes of Health (NIH).

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