DASH-ing your way to better health

Did you happen to see recent headlines linking the DASH diet to a lower risk for depression? Or the U.S. News and World Report rankings DASH and the Mediterranean diets as tied for the “best diet overall?”

Research conducted at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago found that people who followed DASH had an 11 percent lower risk of developing depression during the six-plus years of the study, compared with study participants who did not follow the DASH plan.

The U.S. News and World Report ranking is not a fluke. Every year, they evaluate and rank over 40 eating plans and have consistently ranked the DASH Diet in the top spot. The publication noted that DASH was among the best diets for weight loss, diabetes and for promoting heart health.

So, what is DASH? DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The diet emphasizes eating fruits and vegetables along with low-fat or nonfat dairy, lean meats, and avoiding foods high in salt and sugar. The plan was originally developed to help people with high blood pressure, but it’s a solid eating plan for anyone struggling with often-conflicting weight loss and nutrition information.

Limiting sodium by eating fewer processed foods like frozen meals or fast foods, and enjoying more vegetables and fruits is an important step to preventing or reducing high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke and heart attack, which is another reason to love the DASH diet.

The DASH eating plan is one key part of a heart-healthy lifestyle and by combining it with other lifestyle changes such as physical activity, you can feel better, have more energy, and control your blood pressure and LDL-cholesterol for life. You’ve heard these lifestyle factors before: get more active, maintain a healthy weight, limit alcohol, get plenty of sleep, manage stress, and if you smoke, quit.

The really good news? The DASH diet has no fees, no special foods, no books to buy. A detailed description of the program is readily available at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website, where you can also find and print recipes, menus, tips, and tools at no charge. (https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/dash-eating-plan)

If your New Year’s weight loss resolution failed (again) and you are looking to make some changes, or you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure, diabetes, or other health risks, DASH is well-worth exploring.

Chautauqua County has high rates of both heart attack and stroke, but an estimated 80 percent of heart attacks and strokes are preventable. CHQ250 is an initiative of the Chautauqua Health Action Team(CHAT), encouraging you to take action to be one of at least 250 strokes, heart attacks, or related deaths prevented in Chautauqua County in the coming year. This column is written by CHAT members to share information to help you to do your part to live a life free of stroke or heart disease; it is not intended to replace advice provided by your healthcare team. Please direct questions or comments to: activecounty@co.chautauqua.ny.us.