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Lifestyle Changes May Lower Need for Blood Pressure Medication

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for a cardiovascular event. A recent study suggests that lifestyle changes including healthier eating and regular exercise may reduce the need for antihypertensive medications in people with high blood pressure.


Participants in the study included 129 overweight or obese men and women between the ages of 40 and 80 who had high blood pressure. All of the participants had blood pressure between 130-160/80-99 mmHg and were not taking medication to lower their blood pressure at the onset of the study.


Over the course of 16 weeks, the participants underwent one of three interventions: adoption of the DASH diet, plus behavioral counseling and supervised exercise three times per week; DASH diet only, with support from a nutritionist; and a group that acted as a control by making no changes. The DASH diet is designed to lower blood pressure and focuses on fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy and minimizes consumption of red meat, salt and sweets.


At the conclusion of the study, participants in the DASH diet/weight management group lost an average of 19 lbs. and had an average decrease of 16 mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure and 10 mmHg reduction in diastolic blood pressure. The DASH-only group had an average blood pressures decrease of 11 systolic/8 diastolic mmHg. The control group had an average blood pressure decline of 3 systolic/4 diastolic mmHg.


The researchers noted that only 15% of the DASH diet/weight management group still needed antihypertensive medication by the end of the study. In comparison, 23% of the diet-only group and 50% of the control still needed medication.


Researchers from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill led the study. It was presented at the American Heart Association's Joint Hypertension 2018 Scientific Sessions held the week of September 6, 2018.

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