DASH diet helps lower risk of heart attack and stroke

by Melanie Thomassian Health Professional

Trying to separate diet myths from the truth can get rather confusing to say the least. Indeed many of the diets out there completely contradict what health professionals recommend.

So, what really works? Well, that's a difficult question, but I feel it's important to focus on what reputable scientific evidence is telling us. Otherwise we could end up changing our eating habits as often as the wind changes

A recent study has provided the strongest evidence yet that government recommendations for lowering blood pressure can help prevent heart attack and stroke.

Study findings

Researchers followed more than 88,000 healthy women for nearly 25 years (aged mid-30s - late 50s). They examined their food choices, finding that those who focused on healthy eating habits similar to those recommended by the government's DASH plan were the healthiest.

These women ate twice as many fruits, vegetables and grains as the more typical American diet. Those with healthier eating habits were:


24% less likely to have a heart attack.


18% less likely to have a stroke.

Study limitations:


It only included women.


Ideally diets would have been assigned at random, and then compared. However this would be extremely difficult to track for such a long time.

Therefore, at present this study provides the best evidence of the long-term benefits to be gained from such a diet.

The great thing about the DASH plan is that it's aimed at prevention, and it's available free. You can access it on the National Institute of Health site.

Unfortunately, it's seems that many people prefer to take a pill rather than adjusting their eating habits. However as Dr. Goldberg commented, "I always point out to my patients, if you make these changes in your lives, it could keep you off medication" in the long run.

So, what is the DASH eating plan? Along with other lifestyle changes the DASH eating plan may help you to prevent and control high blood pressure, and as this new study indicates, it may also be useful in helping to prevent heart attack and stroke.

The DASH diet is rich in fruits, and vegetables, and low in fats, particularly saturated fat. It is also low in cholesterol, and sodium, and high in dietary fiber, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, and moderately high in protein.

Here are a few examples of the recommended food choices:

Servings in 2,000 calories/day menu:

Food Group



= 8


= 4


= 5

Dairy Foods

= 3

Meats, Poultry, & Fish

= 2

Nuts, Seeds, & Legumes

= 1

Fats & Oils

= 2.5

If you are currently overweight, remember that even a small amount of weight loss will help to lower your risk of developing high blood pressure, and other serious health conditions.

Are you familiar with the DASH eating plan? What do you think of it?

Melanie Thomassian
Meet Our Writer
Melanie Thomassian

Melanie is a dietitian and writer. She wrote for HeatlhCentral as a health professional for Food & Nutrition and Heart Health.