According to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are around 5.7 million adults with heart failure in the United States. The condition arises when the heart continues to beat but cannot pump blood as well as it should. The result is that organs and tissues do not get the oxygen and nutrients they need to function properly and remain healthy. But, a recent study determined that a specific diet can drastically reduce the risk of heart failure.
DASH Eating Plan Can Lower Blood Pressure
The DASH eating plan can lower blood pressure and low-density lipoprotein, or "bad," cholesterol. The diet is high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, as well as beans, nuts, low-fat or fat-free dairy, poultry, fish, and vegetable oils. It is low in saturated fats, full-fat dairy, fatty and red meats, salt, sugary drinks, sweets, and tropical oils such as those from coconut and palm.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) promote DASH as part of a "heart-healthy lifestyle" that includes exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, not drinking too much alcohol, managing stress, not smoking, and sleeping well.
The participants of the study were aged 45–84 when they joined in 2000–2002. None had any cardiovascular diseases at that time.
The analysis used data covering 13 years of follow-up on 4,478 participants. Dietary data came from the participants' responses to 120-item questionnaires on consumption frequency and amounts of various foods and drinks.
The researchers grouped the participants into five sets, each comprising 20% of the cohort, and ranked them according to how closely their eating pattern matched that of DASH. They then examined the incidence of heart failure across the sets of participants.
The results showed that for all the participants, sticking to the DASH eating plan seemed to have little significant effect on heart failure risk. However, when they took out participants aged 75 and over, the researchers saw a pattern.
The rate of heart failure was 40% lower in people under 75 who most closely followed the DASH eating plan, compared with those who followed it the least.
Heart failure is a frequent cause of hospitalization in older adults and is associated with substantial healthcare costs, so identifying modifiable risk factors [for] heart failure is an important public health goal.