Following a high blood pressure diet could be as effective as taking medication for people with stage-1 high blood pressure.

This is according to a study of more than 400 adults with prehypertension (stage-1 high blood pressure).

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine researchers found that combining a low-salt diet with the heart-healthy DASH diet substantially lowers systolic blood pressure – the top number in a blood pressure test – especially in people with higher baseline systolic readings.

“Our results add to the evidence that dietary interventions are as effective as – or more effective than – antihypertensive drugs in those at highest risk for high blood pressure, and should be a routine first-line treatment option for such individuals,” says Stephen Juraschek, M.D., an adjunct assistant professor at Johns Hopkins and an instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

High blood pressure diet

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet has long promoted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the American Heart Association.

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It is rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, beans, seeds and nuts, along with a little low-fat or fat-free dairy, fish, poultry.

Related: How to reduce the risk of high blood pressure

Combining the DASH diet with a low-sodium diet

While both low-sodium and DASH diets are known to prevent or lower high blood pressure, the new study examined the effects of combining the two diets.

investigators followed 412 adults with a systolic blood pressure of 120-159 mm Hg and a diastolic blood pressure between 80-95 mm Hg (i.e., prehypertension or stage-1 hypertension).  The participants were put on the DASH diet or a control diet for 12 weeks. The control diet was similar to that of a ‘normal’ American diet.

The results surprised researchers.

“What we’re observing from the combined dietary intervention is a reduction in systolic blood pressure as high as, if not greater than, that achieved with prescription drugs,” says senior study author Lawrence Appel, M.D., M.P.H., professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

“It’s an important message to patients that they can get a lot of mileage out of adhering to a healthy and low-sodium diet.”

Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine via

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