DASHing our way to Stroke Prevention
Submitted by Emily Seferovich
Edited by: Marcia Bristow MS RDN CD
When it comes to stroke prevention, the secret may lie with the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. DASH is an eating pattern that emphasizes fresh fruits and vegetables, leaner proteins, nuts/seeds, low/non-fat dairy products, and whole grains. The underlying secret to DASH’s stroke-preventing abilities relies upon three nutrients that reduce blood pressure: magnesium, calcium, and potassium1,2,3.
Magnesium is an extremely important nutrient that is responsible for many of the chemical reactions that occur in the body, in addition to controlling blood pressure. It is most commonly found in dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach, and Swiss chard. Each of these veggies can help supply the body with the magnesium it needs, and for very few calories to boot! Nuts/seeds, soybeans, avocados, and dark chocolate are additional delicious sources of magnesium. To eat according to the DASH principles, consume 4-5 servings of vegetables a day and 6-8 servings of whole grains per day. By doing this, you can meet your body’s needs for magnesium4.
Calcium is another essential nutrient that plays a key role in blood pressure maintenance5. It’s easy to come by if you eat dairy products, dark leafy greens, figs, fortified breads & cereals, fish, and soybeans. Increasing calcium intake has even been shown to offset the effect of salt in the diet, a known culprit in elevated blood pressure that increases our risk for stroke6. It’s important note that the body can’t absorb Calcium without Vitamin D, so try to consume 2-3 servings of calcium and vitamin D-rich dairy products per day to help your body absorb the calcium it needs to reduce your risk for stroke!
Studies suggest that potassium lowers blood pressure by making our arteries more flexible while allowing the body to relieve itself of excess sodium7. Potassium is found in potatoes, squash, mushrooms, dark leafy greens, beans, soybeans, and non/low-fat dairy products. Bananas are another rich source for potassium and can help you meet the 4-5 daily servings of fruit recommended by DASH. Nuts/seeds are another source of potassium – DASH recommends that we eat 4-5 servings of nuts/seeds throughout the week (since nuts are a very calorie dense food, remember a serving of this group is equal to 1/4 cup)8.
No equation or formula will completely eliminate your risk for stroke. However, when combined with a healthy and active lifestyle, the D.A.S.H. diet can certainly aid in our quest for stroke prevention!
- Liebman B. A strike against stroke: how to keep your brain in working order. – Free Online Library. http://www.thefreelibrary.com/A+strike+against+stroke%3A+how+to+keep+your+brain+in+working+order.-a0307414239. Accessed April 26, 2015. *
- No Author Listed. In Brief: Your Guide To Lowering Your Blood Pressure With DASH – NHLBI, NIH. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/resources/heart/hbp-dash-in-brief-html. Accessed April 6, 2015.
- Bellows L, Moore R. Diet and Hypertension. http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/foodnut/09318.html. Accessed April 6, 2015.
- Houston M, Harper K. Potassium, magnesium, and calcium: their role in both the cause and treatment of hypertension. – PubMed – NCBI. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18607145. Accessed April 6, 2015.
- No Author Listed. Magnesium — Health Professional Fact Sheet. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/#h3. Accessed April 6, 2015.
- No Author Listed. A Guide to Calcium-Rich Foods | National Osteoporosis Foundation. http://nof.org/articles/886. Accessed April 6, 2015.
- Resnick L. The role of dietary calcium in hypertension: a hierarchical overview. – PubMed – NCBI. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10075395. Accessed April 6, 2015.
- Ward, MS, RD E. Potassium Food Sources, Benefits, Deficiencies, and More. http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/potassium-sources-and-benefits. Accessed April 12, 2015.
- No Author Listed. Potassium in diet: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002413.htm. Accessed April 6, 2015.
* Original Article