Blood pressure is known to be no good. But even mild elevations of blood pressure above the optimal level of less than 120/80 mm Hg are unhealthy and the higher the blood pressure above normal, the greater the health risk. The clinical study, called "DASH" (for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), found that elevated blood pressures can be reduced with an eating plan low in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol, and rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods. The plan is rich in magnesium, potassium, and calcium, as well as protein and fiber.
The DASH study compared 3 eating plans and all three used about 3,000 mg of sodium daily–about 20 % below the U.S. average for adults. None of the plans was vegetarian or used specialty foods. Results showed that both the fruit/vegetable and combination plans reduced blood pressure, but the combination plan had the greatest effect. The DASH plan reduced blood pressure by an average of about 6 mm Hg for systolic and 3 mm Hg for diastolic and worked even better for those with high blood pressure–the systolic dropped on average about 11 mm Hg and the diastolic about 6 mm Hg. Plus, the reductions came within just 2 weeks of starting the eating plan.
The diet gives the servings and food groups for the DASH eating plan but the number of servings you need may vary, depending on your needs. You should be aware that the DASH plan has more daily servings of fruits, vegetables, and grains than you may be used to eating which are high in fiber, which can cause bloating and diarrhea. So you should gradually increase your servings of fruits, vegetables, and grains. These nutrients believed to benefit blood pressure and in other factors involved in good health. The amounts of the nutrients vary by how much you eat. If you eat about 2,000 calories a day on the plan, the nutrients you get will include: 4,700 mg potassium, 500 mg magnesium, 1,240 mg calcium or two to three times the amounts most Americans receive.