Health Advice



Nutrition News: Lowering Your Blood Pressure

Charlyn Fargo on

A few healthy lifestyle changes can make a big difference in your blood pressure numbers, according to a study of 14,000 Chinese individuals. Researchers followed the individuals for up to 10 years and found that those who made healthy changes in their lifestyle had a significantly lower risk of death.

Just what are those healthy lifestyle factors to adopt? Being at the right weight, not smoking, eating a healthy diet, working out daily and getting enough sleep.

Participants who were overweight, smoked, had poor dietary habits, were sedentary and had poor sleep habits didn't see a reduction in mortality rates even if they were taking blood pressure medication.

Those who took blood pressure medication and improved their lifestyle had the lowest risk of death from any cause, including heart attack, stroke and cancer.

To make a difference, the researchers found you need at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week (30 minutes per weekday), 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night and to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and lean dairy.

That's the same findings that a study by the National Institutes of Health's National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute found earlier. Researchers studied 810 men and women with mild hypertension or prehypertension who were not taking medication to control their blood pressure. Participants were divided into three groups -- two behavioral intervention groups counseled and given goals for weight loss, physical activity and sodium and alcohol intake. One of those groups also received guidance on the DASH diet, an eating plan boosting fruits and vegetables and limiting salt. The third was a control group.


Goals included a 15-pound weight loss, 3 hours per week of moderate physical activity, daily sodium intakes of no more than 2,300 milligrams and limits of one alcoholic drink per day for women and two per day for men. Those following the DASH diet aimed to eat 9-12 servings of fruits and vegetables per day and 2-3 servings of low-fat dairy products and to keep their total fat to no more than 25% of total daily calories. To keep track, participants kept food diaries, counted calories and sodium intakes and recorded their physical activity.

Both behavioral intervention groups significantly reduced their weight, fat intake and sodium intake. And the DASH group increased their fruit, vegetable, dairy, fiber and mineral intakes.

The results of this study were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. While about 37% of the participants had high blood pressure at the study's start, by the end that fell to 32% in the control group, 24% in the intervention group without DASH and 22% in the group following DASH.

The bottom line? Your lifestyle matters when it comes to controlling your blood pressure. Eat healthy, exercise regularly.


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