Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the United States.
Public health advocates frequently site Americans’ high-sodium diet as one factor in the nation’s cardiac health.
While sodium has been definitively linked to high blood pressure—a key risk factor for CVD—few rigorously controlled studies make the direct causal link between high sodium intake and cardiovascular damage, heart attack, or stroke.
In a recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers found that a common diet for lowering blood pressure also provides other heart-health benefits.
The study is from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. One author is Stephen Juraschek, MD, Ph.D.
In the study, the team examined three cardiovascular biomarkers, which are measurable indicators of cardiovascular health in the blood, to determine whether diet directly impacts cardiac health.
They analyzed blood samples from clinical trial participants adhering to strict dietary regimens.
The team found that a diet proven to lower elevated blood pressure, known as the DASH diet, reduces inflammation.
They also showed that the DASH diet, alone or in conjunction with a low-sodium diet, reduces heart injury and strain.
This study represents some of the strongest evidence that diet directly impacts cardiac damage, and these findings show that dietary interventions can improve heart risk factors in a relatively short time period.
The data reinforce the importance of a lifestyle that includes a reduced-sodium, DASH diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains to minimize cardiac damage over time.
The DASH, or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, has been proven to reduce blood pressure.
It emphasizes consuming fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts while limiting saturated fats, total fat, cholesterol, red meat, sweets and sugar-containing beverages.
Developed in the 1990s with the specific goal of lowering blood pressure, the well-studied diet has also been shown to prevent cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular disease.
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