Vegetables at the marketA heart-healthy diet is related to decreased blood pressure measurements, researchers said in a study presented this week at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2014.

Elevated blood pressure is a major risk factor for the development of heart and blood vessel disease.  While it is known that following U.S. dietary guidelines can decrease the risk for heart and blood vessel disease, their effects on specific blood pressure measurements were unclear. In this study, researchers found that blood pressure measurements were higher among study participants who did not follow the dietary guidelines.

“This research suggests that healthy eating habits, including a diet enriched with fruits, vegetables and whole grains and low in sodium and alcohol should be part of a primary cardiovascular prevention strategy as a means of maintaining a healthy blood pressure,” said Natalie Bello, M.D., M.P.H., study lead author and assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.

Participants included 12,445 volunteers at four U.S. sites in the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos. Their average age was 38 years old, and 52 percent were female. About one-fifth of participants smoked. Ten percent had untreated high blood pressure.

Researchers used The Alternative Healthy Eating Index to assess participants’ adherence to U.S. dietary guidelines.