Lifestyle changes alone may lower blood pressure

April 23, 2003 in Heart Health, Nutrition Topics in the News, Sports Nutrition and Exercise

Lifestyle changes alone may lower blood pressure

A study published in todayís Journal of the American Medical Association is said to be the first to test the impact of a combination of lifestyle changes on high blood pressure and has found that mildly elevated blood pressure can be lowered without drugs.

The beneficial changes in the study were 180 minutes of moderately intense exercise per week, a reduced-fat diet featuring more fruits and vegetables and non fat dairy products, weight loss of at least 15 pounds, reduced sodium intake and limiting alcoholic beverages to one per day for women, two for men.

The government-sponsored study involved more than 800 adults with an average age of 50 who were not on blood pressure drugs. In general, they were overweight and sedentary and all had "above-optimal" blood pressure readings, including some with mild, stage 1 hypertension. Optimal blood pressure is a systolic blood pressure (the first number in a blood-pressure reading) of less than 120 mm Hg, and a diastolic pressure (the second number) of less than 80.

Previous studies had established that each one (of the changes) lowered blood pressure, but no study had combined all. During the six-month study, some participants were given 30 minutes with a dietitian who offered general advice on lowering blood pressure; a second group received 18 counseling sessions on losing weight, reducing salt and increasing exercise; and a third group got the same 18 sessions plus information on a diet emphasizing fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products, but reduced in fats, red meat, sweets and sugared beverages.

While all three groups lowered their blood pressure, the third group did the best, with twice the success of the group that got only a half-hour of counseling.

At the end of the study only 27 people in all three groups required blood pressure drugs, the authors said.

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