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Here Are The Key Lifestyle Changes To Improve Blood Pressure Over 16 Weeks

Sep 12, 2018 08:32 PM EDT
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Hypertension is a major problem among people of all demographics. A solution: lifestyle changes can go a long way, according to a new study.

With a third of the United States population suffering from hypertension, it's crucial to find a way to lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes, which are both inextricably linked to high blood pressure.

The study, presented at the American Heart Association's annual Joint Hypertension 2018 Scientific Sessions, confirm that within 16 weeks of making specific changes in their day-to-day lives, patients with hypertension were able to reduce the need for medication.

"Lifestyle modifications, including healthier eating and regular exercise, can greatly decrease the number of patients who need blood pressure-lowering medicine," Alan Hinderliter, M.D., study author and associate professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, says in a statement. "That's particularly the case in folks who have blood pressures in the range of 130 to 160 mmHg systolic and between 80 and 99 mmHg diastolic."

The Study

Hinderliter and the other researchers enlisted 129 overweight or obese participants between the ages of 40 and 80 years old. All exhibited high blood pressure but were not taking medications for it during the study period. More than half of the participants were candidates for antihypertensive medication at the start of the study.

The participants were divided into three different groups. The first group had to take part in an extensive weight management program that included behavioral counseling, supervised exercise three times a week, and the DASH nutritional plan, which is a diet that's been shown to lower blood pressure.

The second group only had to change their diet to the DASH plan, while the third group did not change anything in their lifestyle.

Each group stuck to their assigned programs for 16 weeks.

The Results

At the end of the study period, those in the first group lost an average of 19 pounds. The group's blood pressure also dropped by an average of 16 mmHg systolic and 10 mmHg diastolic. After their program of weight loss management and DASH diet, only 15 percent of them required antihypertensive medication.

The second group also showed positive results, highlighting the importance of diet in any attempt to lower blood pressure. The participants in this group reduced their blood pressure by an average of 11 mmHg systolic and 8 mmHg diastolic. A total of 23 percent of them needed antihypertensive medication when the 16 weeks wrapped up.

Meanwhile, the third group only lowered their blood pressure by an average 3 mmHg systolic and 4 mmHg diastolic. Furthermore, almost 50 percent of this last group still required medication.

Sixteen weeks, it turns out, is enough to turn the blood pressure around. However, total commitment is necessary. While overhauling the diet may be enough for a blood pressure decline, the study shows that the best results included exercise and even counseling.

About High Blood Pressure

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hypertension affects about 75 million adults in the United States. Roughly half of this number have their condition under control, but it isn't enough, as hypertension increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes significantly. Both are among the leading causes of death in the country.

Dubbed the "silent killer" for its lack of noticeable symptoms, hypertension was recorded to be primary or contributing cause of 410,000 deaths in the United States in 2014. This translates to over 1,100 people per day that year.

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