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Can a DASH Diet Really Help Lower My Blood Pressure?

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Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) – What Is It?

The DASH diet is designed to help prevent and manage high blood pressure. It was developed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The DASH diet emphasises eating foods that are rich in potassium, calcium and magnesium, as well as lowering sodium intake. These are all dietary changes that are known to lower blood pressure naturally. 


What Foods Can I Eat as Part of the DASH Diet? 

Following the DASH diet doesn’t mean you have to exclude anything from your diet. Instead, the diet encourages you to focus on:  

  • Fruits and vegetables: 4-5 servings of each per day. 
  • Lean proteins: Such as poultry, fish, beans, and nuts.
  • Reduced sodium: Lowering salt intake is critical. The DASH diet recommends consuming no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, with a lower target of 1,500 milligrams for those with higher risk of heart disease. 
  • Whole grains: Brown rice, whole wheat bread, and oatmeal are preferred.
  • Low-fat dairy: Skimmed milk, yogurt, and low-fat cheese offer calcium without the excessive fat.
  • Healthy fats: Limited use of healthy fats from sources like olive oil, avocados, and nuts.

The DASH diet advises to limit consumption of: 

  • High saturated foods such as fatty meats and full fat dairy products, but also oils such as coconut oil. 
  • Sweets and sweetened foods.
  • Alcohol.
  • Salty foods.


The DASH Diet and Exercise:

Alongside diet – DASH also recommends at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, most days of the week. It’s important to do a total of at least 2 hours and 30 minutes per week of activities at a moderate-intensity level, which means activities that’ll get you a bit out of breath. 

You can read our article ‘Best Exercises to Lower Blood Pressure’ for exercise ideas here.


How Does the DASH Diet Decrease My Blood Pressure? 

  • Reduces sodium intake: High sodium levels are linked to increased blood pressure. Limiting salt intake helps reduce the volume of blood that flows through the arteries, lowering blood pressure.
  • Increases potassium: Potassium helps reduce sodium levels in the body. You can read more about how potassium lowers blood pressure here.
  • Promotes weight loss: The balanced, nutrient-rich foods in the DASH diet can help with weight management. Losing excess weight reduces the strain on the heart and arteries, further helping to lower blood pressure.
  • Improves heart health: The diet’s focus on whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats supports overall cardiovascular health, it can also help reduce bad cholesterol, decreasing the risk of heart disease.  


How Do I Start the DASH Diet?

  • Gradual changes: There’s no need to fully exclude anything, instead gradually incorporate more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into your meals. 
  • Read labels: Check for sodium content in packaged foods and opt for low-sodium alternatives. 
  • Plan meals: Prepare meals in advance to help avoid processed foods and give you greater control over the ingredients in them. 
  • Hydrate: Drink plenty of water, limiting your intake of sugary drinks and alcohol.


Will Following the DASH Diet Really Help Reduce My Blood Pressure?

Absolutely - we could all benefit from the DASH diet. Having a healthy diet doesn’t only improve blood pressure but will also help reduce cholesterol, control weight, mental health, as well as offering many other benefits. 


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Dr. Serena Jones


About me

Dr. Serena has extensive experience as an NHS and private GP as well as in medical advisory roles. She has over 7 years’ experience in the digital health sector and is a Clinical director and advisor to private health companies alongside working two days a week in the NHS.  Serena qualified as a doctor from Manchester University in 2008, she holds the MBChB, MRCGP and also the DRCOG and DFSRH. Serena has a special interest in Women’s Health, preventative medicine and health tech.

GMC Number: 7017336

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