Diet, Exercise Shown to Control Hypertension

From Reuters

A study that tested the impact of a combination of lifestyle changes on high blood pressure found that it can be lowered without drugs, researchers said Tuesday.

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

“Our study shows that people can simultaneously make multiple lifestyle changes that lower their blood pressure and improve their health,” said Lawrence Appel, a physician and professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University who chaired the study.


“The key issue now is helping people maintain these changes so they don’t revert back to less healthy behaviors,” he said, adding “It may ... be a means to control blood pressure and a lot of heart disease and stroke without actually relying on medication.”

The 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 had blood pressure readings of 120 to 159 over 80 to 95. Optimal blood pressure is less than 120 over less than 80.

The report was published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Assn.

“Previous studies had established that each one [of the changes] lowered blood pressure but no study had combined all,” Laura Svetkey, a physician at the Duke University Hypertension Center, one of the authors, said in an interview.

In the six-month study, one group was 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; a third group got the same 18 sessions plus data 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 first segment, which got only the half hour of counseling.

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