Fighting heart failure with food

The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) benefits heart failure patients by improving artery function, increasing exercise capacity and enhancing overall quality of life according to a new study.

Researchers with Advocate Heart Institute at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill., analyzed the impact of the popular DASH diet on older adults with heart failure. Results were compared to those measured in a similar group of patients who followed more standard dietary recommendations for heart failure.

“Integrating DASH into the dietary patterns of patients with heart failure could hold potentially beneficial effects in decreasing the progression of endothelial dysfunction,” says Dr. Marc Silver, chair of internal medicine at Advocate Christ Medical Center and principal investigator for the study.

Endothelial dysfunction refers to the abnormal behavior of cells lining the inside of blood vessels in patients with heart disease which can cause arteries to stiffen and narrow, restricting blood flow.

“To determine whether the particular positive effect on endothelial dysfunction and other possible salutary effects of DASH can be translated to clinical practice merits further investigation,” wrote Dr. Silver.

Conducted during a three-month period, the study involved 48 older heart failure patients, who were randomly assigned to either the DASH diet or the more standard dietary regimen. At the start, all participants received education regarding their diet requirements.  A dietitian also conducted monthly, in-person visits and weekly or bi-weekly phone calls to counsel patients and reinforce adherence to their respective diets.

The research team observed significant improvement in large artery elasticity in DASH patients after one month, but this change became less obvious after two months and three months on the diet. More significant was the DASH group’s ability generally to achieve greater walking distances over time than those in the comparison group. DASH patients also recorded higher scores on the quality of life questionnaire at the conclusion of the study.

Dr. Silver noted that the reason why the DASH diet benefits  heart failure patients remain unclear. In addition to improving endothelial function and the dilation of arteries, DASH may also act on “autonomic and cardiac mechanisms” in enhancing heart failure patients’ overall condition.

Past studies have demonstrated the DASH diet’s positive effects on blood pressure, stiffness of arteries, oxidative stress and heart diastolic function. DASH was formally adopted into the 2013 dietary guidelines for cardiovascular risk prevention.

“The DASH diet may prove to be an important adjunctive therapy for patients with symptomatic heart failure,” says Dr. Silver. “Our study is one of the few randomized, controlled trials to evaluate a dietary pattern in patients with heart failure.”

Do you know your risk for heart disease? Take our heart risk assessment here. If you are at high risk, see one of Advocate Heart Institute’s cardiologists within 24 hours.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.