DASH Diet Has Extra Benefits for Women's Health

Diet to lower blood pressure may also cut risk of heart failure, research shows

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MONDAY, May 11, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- A diet that prevents and lowers high blood pressure has been linked to a reduced risk of heart failure in women, a new study finds.

"The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension [DASH] diet may contribute to prevention of heart failure in some cases because it effectively reduced blood pressure and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad") cholesterol levels in clinical trials," wrote Emily B. Levitan, of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and colleagues.

"This diet features high intake of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products and whole grains, resulting in high potassium, magnesium, calcium and fiber consumption, moderately high protein consumption, and low total fat and saturated fat consumption," the authors added.

The researchers analyzed data from 36,019 Swedish women, aged 48 to 83, who did not have heart failure in 1997-1998 when they completed a questionnaire about their eating habits. During seven years of follow-up, 443 of the women developed heart failure, including 415 who were hospitalized and 28 who died of the condition, according to the report published in the May 11 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The 25 percent of women with the highest DASH diet scores had a 37 percent lower rate of heart failure than the 25 percent of women with the lowest DASH diet scores, the researchers found. Women within the top 10 percent of DASH diet scores had half the rate of heart failure of those with the lowest DASH diet scores.

Previous research has shown that the DASH diet cuts systolic (top number) blood pressure by about 5.5 mm Hg, a decrease that could lower the rate of heart failure an estimated 12 percent, Levitan noted in a news release from the journal. Lower levels of LDL cholesterol, the estrogen-like effects of some of the nutrients in the diet, and a decrease in oxygen-related cell damage may also contribute to reduced heart failure risk in those who eat the DASH diet.

More information

The Cardiovascular Research Foundation has more about women and heart failure.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, May 11, 2009

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