Healthy eating habits can significantly reduce high blood pressure and improve heart function in heart failure patients, a new study says.
The study included
patients, most in their 60s and 70s, who ate only meals that were prepared for
them in the kitchen of the University of Michigan Clinical Research Unit.
The meals, which could be
picked up and heated at home, followed the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop
Hypertension) diet eating plan, which is high in potassium, magnesium, calcium
and antioxidants. The diet is recommended for high blood pressure treatment by
the American Heart Association and the US National Institutes of Health.
The diet used in the study
also contained a daily sodium intake of 1 150 milligrams or less, which is much
lower than American adults' typical intake of about 4 200 mg a day for men and
3 300 a day for women.
Drop in blood pressure
After three weeks of
following this diet, patients saw a drop in blood pressure similar to that
achieved by taking blood pressure medications, according to the study presented
Tuesday at a Heart Failure Society of America meeting.
"Our work suggests
diet could play an important role in the progression of heart failure, although
patients should always talk to their doctor before making major dietary
changes," Dr Scott Hummel, a cardiologist at the University of Michigan
Frankel Cardiovascular Centre, said in a university news release.
"We're excited to
confirm these results in longer-term studies that also help us understand the
challenges patients face when they try to improve their eating habits," he
Heart failure means the
heart can't pump enough blood to meet the body's needs.
Doctors have long known
that the low-sodium DASH diet can lower blood pressure in patients who are
sensitive to salt. This study, although small, showed that the DASH diet can
improve left ventricular relaxation and reduce diastolic chamber stiffness in
heart failure patients, meaning a more efficient transfer of blood between the
heart and arteries, Hummel explained.
Data and conclusions
presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a
peer-reviewed medical journal.
The U.S. National Heart,
Lung, and Blood Institute has more about the DASH