06/16/2009 - Articles

Healthy diet reduces heart failure risk

By: Susan Aldridge, medical journalist, PhD



The Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension diet lowers blood pressure and low density lipoprotein cholesterol.

This might be expected to decrease the risk of heart failure and a study of Swedish women shows that those who most closely adhered to this dietary approach halved their heart failure risk.



A diet rich in fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy products and whole grains has been shown to be healthy, particularly when it comes to lowering blood pressure. This is the basis of the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, whose benefit to health has been proven in numerous studies. Lowering blood pressure is expected to be beneficial to heart health, but the impact of the DASH diet on heart failure risk has not previously been studied.


What was done

A team at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, studied data from over 36,000 women aged 48 to 83 who were in the Swedish Mammography Cohort. The women did a food frequency questionnaire between 1997 and 1998 to indicate how close their diet was to the DASH diet. They were then followed up from 1998 to 2004 with respect to hospitalizations and death.


What was found

During follow up, 443 women developed heart failure, of whom 28 died of the condition. Comparing the one quarter of women with the highest DASH scores to the one quarter with the lowest scores revealed that those in the former group had a 37% reduced risk of heart failure, and those in the top 10% had a 50% reduced risk. This was after controlling for other factors like age, physical activity and smoking.


What this study means

The DASH diet can lower systolic (top number) blood pressure by 5.5 mm Hg, which might be expected to reduce heart failure risk by 12%. Also, the DASH diet reduces low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL, or ‘bad’ cholesterol) which could also reduce the risk of heart failure. The findings suggest yet another reason for following a healthy diet.



Levitan EB, Wolk A, Mittleman MA Consistency with the DASH diet and the risk of heart failure Archives of Internal Medicine 11th May 2009;169:851-857

Created on: 05/19/2009
Reviewed on: 06/16/2009

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