While both whites and blacks benefited from the DASH diet, black participants had the greatest benefit, the researchers noted. Blacks on the DASH diet saw their heart risk decline by 22 percent over those on a typical diet, versus 8 percent for whites.
Those who ate the American diet plus fruits and vegetables reduced their risk of heart attack by 11 percent compared with those chowing down the usual American fare.
"The problem with hypertension is that it really is a silent killer because you do not feel it," said Samantha Heller, clinical nutrition coordinator at the Center for Cancer Care at Griffin Hospital in Derby, Conn. Millions of people have no idea their blood pressure is high and are walking around like "ticking time bombs," she said.
Those who know they are hypertensive do not always know what to do about it aside from taking medication, Heller added.
"The good news is that with a few dietary tweaks, the risk of these diseases and their co-morbidities can drop considerably. For example, add a salad or side of vegetables with lunch. Have fruit for dessert. Make your mashed potatoes with olive oil and low-fat milk. Top your pizza with part-skim mozzarella, broccoli, spinach and mushrooms," she said.
"The DASH eating plan is a good way to go for people looking to lower their blood pressure and improve heart health," she said.
Another expert, Dr. Gregg C. Fonarow, a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, said although the DASH diet has been shown to lower systolic blood pressure and total cholesterol levels, changing risk factors does not always translate to a reduction in actual heart disease.
"It is therefore essential to hold
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