The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Trial provides critical data on the impact of a specific diet pattern (low in salt, fat, and processed foods and high in fruit and vegetables) on blood pressure (BP). The effect of compliance with a DASH-type diet on BP in a general population sample is less well defined. We studied associations between a DASH style diet and BP. We used cross-sectional data from a study of men and women aged 47-73 years (n = 2,047). Participants completed a physical examination that included 3 standardized clinical BP recordings. A subsample (n = 1,187) had ambulatory BP measurements (ABPM) taken. Diet was assessed using a DASH dietary score constructed from a standard Food Frequency Questionnaire. Lower scores indicated less healthy diets. Hypertension was defined as clinic BP ≥ 140/90mm Hg on medication or as 24-hour ABPM ≥ 130/80 mmHg. Inverse associations were evident between DASH and systolic BP (SBP). There was a difference in clinic SBP of 7.5mm Hg and 5.1mm Hg and a difference in ABPM SBP of 6.3mm Hg and 5.4mm Hg in men and women, respectively, between the highest and lowest DASH quintiles. In fully adjusted multivariable regression analysis, DASH score was inversely associated with SBP. Clear population differences in SBP were evident across DASH quintiles. The observed associations indicate that the findings are consistent with the hypothesis that adherence to DASH-equivalent diet can reduce BP at the population level. Public policy promoting a DASH-style healthy diet could have a significant impact on population health by reducing average BP in the population.
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