TUESDAY, Aug. 31 (HealthDay News) -- Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fats can significantly lower the risk of heart attack for people with mildly elevated blood pressure, Johns Hopkins University researchers say.
The diet they examined -- called the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) -- was designed to lower blood pressure and cholesterol. In this new study, it reduced the risk of heart attack by almost 20 percent, the researchers said.
"Heart disease is an important cause of mortality and morbidity in the United States," said lead researcher Dr. Nisa M. Maruthur, an assistant professor of medicine at Hopkins' School of Medicine. "Thus, adoption of the DASH diet should have important benefits on a public health scale."
The diet also calls for reducing fats, red meat, sweets and sugary beverages, and replacing them with whole grains, poultry, low-fat dairy products, fish and nuts. The eating plan is recommended by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the American Heart Association.
For the study, published online Aug. 31 in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, Maruthur's team studied 436 people with high blood pressure or borderline hypertension who were not taking blood pressure medication. The participants were assigned to either the DASH diet; a typical American diet, which is low in important minerals and high in saturated fat, total fat and cholesterol; or an American diet plus more fruits and vegetables.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, heart failure and kidney disease.
To determine their risk of having a heart attack over 10 years, the researchers used the Framingham Heart Study risk equation.
After eight weeks, the DASH dieters, who were eating nine to 11 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, had re
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