Use of the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Eating Plan for Diabetes Management

  1. Amanda L. Clark, MA, RD, LD, CHES

Diabetes self-management education is an integral part of the role of diabetes care practitioners. However, guiding patients with diabetes toward a path of better health is a growing challenge for a variety of reasons. Diabetes ranks as the seventh-leading cause of death, affecting 25.8 million people (8.3%) in the U.S. population. In addition, 35% of adults in the United States ≥ 20 years of age have prediabetes.1 For patients with diabetes or prediabetes, the diagnosis is frequently accompanied by other comorbidities, including hypertension, dyslipidemia, and obesity. This means treatment guidelines must focus not only on blood glucose management, but also on controlling lipids, blood pressure, and body weight.2 Although glycemic control is an important aspect of health and well-being for patients with diabetes, there are more pieces to the puzzle of effective diabetes management.

Adults with diabetes have a risk of death from coronary heart disease that is two to four times higher than that of adults without diabetes. Yet, of people with diabetes ≥ 20 years of age, 67% have blood pressure readings of ≥ 140/90 mmHg or are taking prescription hypertension agents.1 These statistics make it clear that diabetes practitioners have an opportunity to support their patients in achieving improvements in areas commonly referred to as “the ABCs of diabetes management”: A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol.

Lifestyle modification is a cornerstone of management for diabetes and prediabetes. A multitude of guidelines exist regarding proper nutrition, especially with regard to managing chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and dyslipidemia. Unfortunately, consumers are also bombarded with mixed messages about nutrition from numerous sources. It can be difficult to decipher fact from fiction and to answer one of the simplest questions often asked by patients with diabetes: “What can I eat?”

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, most recently …

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  1. doi: 10.2337/diaspect.25.4.244 Diabetes Spectrum vol. 25 no. 4 244-252