The lunchtime dash to a nearby eatery is a daily ritual at NCI at Frederick, but Occupational Health Services (OHS) recently showed employees a different, healthy kind of DASH—Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.
Employees who visited the educational lunch-hour event, called “DASH and Dine,” had the chance to speak with OHS staff about the benefits of the DASH Eating Plan, a diet developed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).
Those benefits include lowering one’s blood pressure, cholesterol, and risk of hypertension, as well as increasing heart health. NHLBI’s PREMIER study also demonstrated that the diet can lower body weight when combined with physical activity.
“It even has benefits for people without hypertension or high cholesterol,” said Delia Croghan, nurse I, OHS.
Croghan explained to visitors that the DASH Eating Plan isn’t really a diet—instead, the focus is a good dietary lifestyle rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products and meats, which is more flexible than preplanned or “program” diets. The wide range of foods encompassed under the plan also makes it relatively simple to follow.
“[People are] probably eating a lot of food in the [plan] already,” Croghan said. “It’s about choices. It’s real food you’re already eating … it’s not something you get in the mail. It’s easy.”
Numerous organizations have touted the DASH Eating Plan as straightforward and effective, according to OHS. NHLBI examined the plan in multiple studies and found that it is associated with significant health benefits when followed long-term. U.S. News and World Report has ranked the plan as the “best overall diet” for the past eight years in a row, and this year, it was recognized as the best plan for diabetes and heart health. It has also been endorsed by the American Heart Association and the Mayo Clinic.
The DASH and Dine event was part of OHS’ larger health initiative for American Heart Month. In addition to educating visitors about DASH, Croghan informed them of OHS’ heart health services, such as the free blood pressure clinic on Tuesdays and Thursdays. She also captured some visitors’ attention with handouts about upcoming OHS events, including the popular Take a Hike, which has been rescheduled for February 21 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Some DASH and Dine visitors expressed immediate interest in the hike.
“I’ll be there,” one visitor said when asked about the event.
Along with information about the DASH Eating Plan and upcoming events, OHS staff provided multiple health- and heart-themed handouts to visitors, which included a portion quiz, portion bowls, calorie journals, heart-shaped lanyards, wristbands, and lip balm. They hope many employees will join them for their remaining Heart Month events, Take a Hike and “What’s Your Salt IQ?” which will be held on February 22 from noon to 1 p.m. in the Building 549 Discovery Café.
Editor’s note: More information about the DASH Eating Plan is available through NHLBI.