Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) is a flexible and balanced eating plan. DASH was one of three eating plans that were compared in research studies sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).
The goal of this research was to study the effects of diet on high blood pressure. The results showed that the DASH eating plan lowers blood pressure. The plan:
The DASH eating plan also is lower in sodium (salt) than the typical American diet. The DASH research showed that an eating plan containing 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day lowered blood pressure. An eating plan containing only 1,500 mg of sodium per day even further lowered blood pressure.
The "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010" advise people in the following groups to aim for no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day:
The DASH eating plan also includes foods rich in potassium, such as fruits and vegetables. In general, potassium should come from food sources only, not supplements. For a list of the potassium content of selected foods, visit http://www.ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles/Place/12354500/Data/SR22/ nutrlist/sr22w306.pdf.
Reduced-sodium products and salt substitutes likely contain potassium chloride as a main ingredient. This substance may harm people who have certain medical conditions, such as diabetes and kidney disease. Check with your doctor before trying reduced-sodium products and salt substitutes that contain potassium chloride.
You can limit salt intake without using salt substitutes. For example, use herbs and spices to add flavor to foods. For examples of how to season foods without using salt, visit the NHLBI's Flavor That Food Web page.
Below is a table that shows the daily nutrient goals, including potassium, used in the DASH studies.
|Total fat||27% of calories|
|Saturated fat||6% of calories|
|Protein||18% of calories|
|Carbohydrate||55% of calories|
For more detailed information about the DASH eating plan, go to the NHLBI's "Your Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure With DASH."
Your doctor may recommend the DASH eating plan if you have high blood pressure. Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps out blood. Blood pressure rises and falls during the day.
If blood pressure rises and stays high over time (high blood pressure), it can damage the body in many ways. High blood pressure also is called hypertension (HI-per-TEN-shun).
Blood pressure includes systolic (sis-TOL-ik) and diastolic (di-ah-STOL-ik) pressures. "Systolic" refers to blood pressure when the heart beats while pumping blood. "Diastolic" refers to blood pressure when the heart is at rest between beats.
You'll most often see blood pressure numbers written with the systolic number above or before the diastolic number, such as 120/80 mmHg. (The mmHg is millimeters of mercury—the units used to measure blood pressure.)
Blood pressure is considered high if it stays at or above 140/90 mmHg over time. If you have diabetes or chronic kidney disease, high blood pressure is defined as 130/80 mmHg or higher. A diagnosis of high blood pressure is based on an average of two or more properly measured, seated blood pressure readings done during two or more office visits.
High blood pressure is dangerous because it makes your heart work too hard. The condition can damage your blood vessels and organs, such as your heart, kidneys, brain, and eyes.
High blood pressure is a risk factor for coronary heart disease and stroke, two of the leading causes of death among Americans. High blood pressure also can put you at risk for other medical conditions, such as heart failure, kidney disease, and blindness.
For more information about high blood pressure, go to the Health Topics High Blood Pressure article.
Have questions about sodium? Join The Heart Truth®, the American Heart Association, and Million Hearts™ for a Twitter chat on January 25 at 1 p.m. ET. Get tips on how to manage sodium intake through lifestyle changes and learn why sodium is important to staying heart-healthy. Follow The Heart Truth on Twitter and look for #SodiumChat to join the chat.
Clinical trials are research studies that explore whether a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans.
The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.