The so-called DASH diet was developed as a special diet against high blood pressure and has been proven to help lower blood pressure levels. If the diet is combined with mindfulness training, even greater success can be hoped for.
A research team led by Professor Eric B. Loucks from Brown University (USA) investigated whether adapted mindfulness training can improve adherence to the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and so-called interoception. The results are published in the specialist magazine “JAMA Network Open”.
High blood pressure is the cause of many deaths
High blood pressure is the main risk factor for early death worldwide and leads to millions of preventable deaths every year, the researchers report, citing data from the World Health Organization (WHO).
The deaths are avoidable because almost everyone affected has the opportunity to get their blood pressure under control through diet changes, physical exercise, minimizing alcohol consumption, controlling stress reactions and blood pressure-lowering medication.
Changing your diet to lower blood pressure
Changing the diet to special diets against high blood pressure is an essential pillar of therapy, with previous studies showing that the DASH diet, for example, reduces the risk of heart disease after just eight weeks.
In the new study, the team examined the extent to which accompanying mindfulness training can further improve the success of the DASH diet on 201 participants with elevated blood pressure. 101 participants completed eight weeks of special mindfulness training, the remaining 100 served as a control group.
Adapted mindfulness training
While the control group only received educational brochures and the usual advice, the other group’s program included personalized feedback, education and mindfulness training aimed at the risk factors for high blood pressure, the researchers explain.
According to the experts, the participants were trained in, among other things, meditation, yoga, self-awareness, attention control and emotion regulation, including a joint orientation session, eight 2.5-hour weekly group sessions, a one-day retreat and 45-minute exercises at home on six days a week of the program were.
Nutrition significantly improved
“Participants in the program showed significant improvement in adherence to a heart-healthy diet, which is one of the most important factors in blood pressure, as well as significant improvements in self-perception, which appears to influence healthy eating habits,” says Professor Loucks, summarizing the results.
After six months, the DASH diet score of participants in the mindfulness group improved by 0.34 points, which could be interpreted as meaning that vegetable consumption that approached the recommended value (2 to 3 servings) increased to the recommended value ( at least 4 servings) increased. In the control group, however, the DASH diet score fell by 0.04 points.
According to the researchers, the assessment of interoception (perception and interpretation of signals from one’s own body) showed an improvement of 0.71 points in the mindfulness group after six months, which was significantly higher than in the control group.
Mindfulness training for high blood pressure
Overall, the study results show that a customized mindfulness training program for people with hypertension that targets diet and self-awareness significantly improves both and can support adherence to the DASH diet.
“The program gives participants the tools to make heart-healthy dietary changes that can lower their blood pressure and reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease,” summarizes Professor Loucks. (fp)