Most With High Blood Pressure Don't Follow Recommended Diet

Those who could benefit most have the poorest eating habits

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MONDAY, Feb. 11, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Few people with high blood pressure follow recommended dietary guidelines that help control the disease, a new study says.

In fact, people with hypertension actually appear to be eating worse than before the government-approved guidelines were introduced, according to the report published in the Feb. 11 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine. The study said young people, blacks and the obese fared the worst in their dietary habits.

A diet high in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products has been shown to help significantly lower blood pressure, according to background information in the article. This Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) method, first published in 1997, complements other lifestyle changes, such as reducing sodium and losing weight, and can also help lower cholesterol levels, previous studies have shown.

The DASH diet is recommended by the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection and Treatment of High Blood Pressure for all patients with hypertension.

The study analyzed dietary, health and personal data of adults collected in surveys done by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 1988 to 1994 and from 1999 to 2004. Using the DASH guidelines, researchers identified goals for eight target nutrients and calculated scores ranging from zero to nine for individuals with and without hypertension from the surveys; those who scored a 4.5 or higher were considered to be following the diet.

Dr. Philip B. Mellen, of the Hattiesburg Clinic in Hattiesburg, Miss., and his colleagues found that among individuals surveyed from 1999 to 2004, 28 percent had been diagnosed with hypertension. These individuals had an average DASH score of 2.92 (compared with 3.12 among those without high blood pressure), and only 19.4 percent followed the diet. Compared with those surveyed in 1988 to 1994, 7.3 percent fewer individuals with hypertension followed the DASH diet, reflecting fewer patients who consumed target levels of total fat, fiber and magnesium.

The findings suggest that the diet of Americans with hypertension has not been greatly influenced by the recommendations emerging from the DASH trial and instead reflect secular trends in the dietary patterns of the overall population, the authors wrote. Moreover, the DASH score was lower in subgroups likely to receive the greatest benefit from the DASH diet -- blacks and obese individuals.

More information

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about high blood pressure and how to control it.

SOURCE: Journal of the American Medical Association, news release, Feb. 11, 2008

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