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Front Page » August 8, 2013 » Focus » The DASH eating plan for older adults
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The DASH eating plan for older adults


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The DASH eating plan is a plan for reducing heart disease in seniors.

DASH is short for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It 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 is low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and total fat. It focuses on fruits, vegetables, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products. It is rich in whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds, and nuts. It also contains fewer sweets, added sugars and sugary beverages, and red meats than the typical American diet.

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 1500 mg of sodium per day is particularly good for people who already have high blood pressure, for people who have diabetes or chronic kidney disease, for African Americans and for middle-aged and older adults.

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.pdfexternal link icon.

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.

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