Lifestyle Changes Could Reduce Need for Blood Pressure Medicine
The American Heart Association has found that people with high blood pressure who follow a lifestyle change programme could reduce their need for blood pressure medications.
The most effective lifestyle programmes focus on diet, weight management and exercise.
Strain on the heart
One in four people in the UK have high blood pressure. High blood pressure puts strain on the heart and other vital organs. If is not controlled, someone with high blood pressure is at an increased risk of a number of serious health conditions, including heart attack, stroke, kidney disease and vascular dementia.
Medications are often used to keep blood pressure under control. These medications often need to be taken for the rest of a person’s life, and there can be side effects.
There are ways in which changes to lifestyle could reduce high blood pressure, including eating a healthier diet, doing more exercise, losing weight and stopping smoking.
Now a study from the US has found that undertaking lifestyle changes for 16 weeks could reduce the need for blood pressure medication.
Researchers from the American Heart Association studied 129 overweight men and women between the ages of 40 and 80, who all had high blood pressure. They were not taking medication to lower their blood pressure.
The people were randomly assigned to one of three 16-week interventions. One group changed their diet to one that increases the amount of fruit, vegetables and low-fat dairy, and reduces red meat, salt and sugar. They also took part in a weight management programme, which included behavioural counselling and supervised exercise.
The second group changed their diet only (to the same as the first group), and the third group didn’t change their diet or exercise habits.
Changes in blood pressure
The results showed that the first group lost an average of 19 pounds and reduced their blood pressure by an average of 16 mmHg systolic and 10 mmHg diastolic after 16 weeks. Those that only changed their diet reduced their blood pressure by 11 systolic/8 diastolic. Those that didn’t change their diet or exercise habits had a minimal blood pressure reduction of 3 systolic/4 diastolic.
Only 15% of those in the first group needed blood pressure medication at the end of the study; compared with 23% in the group that only changed their diet, and 50% in the group that didn’t change their diet or exercise habits.
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