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Why does the DASH diet lower blood pressure?

Scientists at the National Institutes of Health have shown why the DASH diet lowers high blood pressure to normal in more than 80 percent of people with high blood pressure. On the DASH diet you eat lots of leafy green vegetables that are rich sources of nitrites, common salts that your bloodstream, can be converted to nitric oxide which opens blood vessels (Nature Medicine, December 2003.). This means that nitrites could be a new treatment for high blood pressure, heart attacks, sickle cell disease, and blocked arteries leading the heart, brain and legs. Hemoglobin is the red pigment in red blood cells that carries oxygen in your bloodstream. When hemoglobin releases oxygen, it converts nitrites to nitric oxide, to widen blood vessels. Blood nitrite levels are low in patients with high blood pressure.

However, at high concentrations nitrites are toxic, so you must take limited amounts. Leafy greens are rich sources of safe amounts of nitrites. The nitrites go into the bloodstream, where exposure to oxygen converts nitrites to nitrous oxide which dilates arteries and lowers high blood pressure. People with high blood pressure should also eat lots of other plants for the same reason, and cut back on meat, poultry and processed foods that are rich sources of sodium which can raise high blood pressure. See my modified DASH diet

March 1, 2006

May 19th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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