Salt, DASH, and Blood Pressure

Medical Author: Dwight Makoff, M.D.
Medical Editor: Leslie J. Schoenfield, M.D., Ph.D.

Patients often ask what changes in life style can contribute to improving their blood pressure. In response, we doctors often recommend that reducing body weight, decreasing intake of dietary salt, and limiting consumption of alcohol can be beneficial. However, we need to now also consider the increasingly publicized DASH diet. This diet can bring about a reduction in blood pressure in people with normal blood pressure or high blood pressure (hypertension). Furthermore, when combined with a restricted dietary intake of salt, DASH actually has an additive effect in reducing the blood pressure.

DASH stands for "Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension." This diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, and grain (cereal) products. It also includes low-fat and fat-free dairy products, fish, legumes (e.g., peas and beans), nuts, poultry, and lean meats. The diet contains only small amounts of red meat, sweets, and sugar-containing beverages and is low in fat. The DASH diet is higher in potassium, calcium, magnesium, dietary fiber, and protein than the typical American diet.