Dietary Habits and Medications to Control Hypertension Among Women of Child-Bearing Age in the United States from 2001 to 2016

Am J Hypertens. 2021 Sep 22;34(9):919-928. doi: 10.1093/ajh/hpab041.


Background: Hypertension (HTN) in pregnancy is a leading cause of maternal morbidity and mortality in the United States. Although the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is recommended for all adults with HTN, rates of DASH adherence and antihypertensive medication use in women of child-bearing age are unknown. Our objectives were to determine DASH adherence and antihypertensive medication use in women of child-bearing age.

Methods: In the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys from 2001 to 2016, we estimated DASH adherence among women of child-bearing age (20-50 years). We derived a DASH score (0-9) based on 9 nutrients, with DASH adherence defined as DASH score ≥4.5. HTN was defined by blood pressure (BP) ≥130/80 mm Hg or antihypertensive medication use. DASH scores were compared across BP categories and antihypertensive medication use was categorized.

Results: Of the 7,782 women, the mean age (SE) was 32.8 (0.2) years, 21.4% were non-Hispanic Black, and 20.3% had HTN. The mean DASH score was 2.11 (0.06) for women with self-reported HTN and 2.40 (0.03) for women with normal BP (P < 0.001). DASH adherence was prevalent in 6.5% of women with self-reported HTN compared with 10.1% of women with normal BP (P < 0.05). Self-reported HTN is predominantly managed with medications (84.8%), while DASH adherence has not improved in these women from 2001 to 2016. Moreover, 39.5% of US women of child-bearing age are taking medications contraindicated in pregnancy.

Conclusions: Given the benefits of optimized BP during pregnancy, this study highlights the critical need to improve DASH adherence and guide prescribing among women of child-bearing age.

Keywords: DASH diet; antihypertensive therapy; blood pressure; hypertension; nutrition; women of child-bearing age.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antihypertensive Agents* / therapeutic use
  • Dietary Approaches To Stop Hypertension* / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension* / diet therapy
  • Hypertension* / drug therapy
  • Middle Aged
  • United States
  • Young Adult


  • Antihypertensive Agents