How to reduce the need for high blood pressure medication

written by Meena Azzollini

fresh vegetables and fruits in a wooden heart shaped dish with exercise equipment and weighing scale in the background

Credit: BigStock

Doctors recommend making lifestyle changes if you have high blood pressure, but many people also need high blood pressure medication to manage their condition. A new study from the University of North Carolina found that men and women with high blood pressure can reduce the need for medication by making lifestyle changes such as following a healthy diet, managing their weight and exercising.

By the end of the study, only 15 per cent of those who had changed their diet and exercise habits needed high blood pressure medication.

This study involved 129 overweight or obese men and women between the ages of 40 and 80 who had high blood pressure. Their blood pressure was between 130-160/80-99 mmHg but they were not taking high blood pressure medication at the time of the study. However, more than half of the patients were candidates for antihypertensive medication at the start of the study.

The researchers randomly assigned each patient to one of three intervention programs for 16 weeks. One group changed the content of their diets and took part in a weight management program that included three weekly supervised exercise and behavioural counselling sessions. They also changed what they ate according to the DASH plan, which is an approach proven to lower blood pressure. DASH emphasises the consumption of fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy and minimises the consumption of red meat, salt and sweets. The participants in the second group only changed their diet and focused on the DASH plan. The third group did not change their diet or exercise habits.

The researchers found that patients in the DASH diet and weight management group lost an average of 8.5 kilograms and had reduced blood pressure by an average of 16 mmHg systolic and 10 mmHg diastolic at the close of the 16 weeks. Patients following only the DASH eating plan had decreased blood pressure by an average of 11 systolic/8 diastolic mmHg. However, those who didn’t change their eating or exercise habits experienced a minimal blood pressure decline that averaged 3 systolic/4 diastolic mmHg.

By the end of the study, only 15 per cent of those who had changed both their diet and exercise habits needed high blood pressure medication, as recommended by the guidelines, compared to 23 per cent in the group that only changed their diet. There was no change in the need for medication in the group that didn’t change their diet or exercise habits. In fact, nearly 50 per cent of the patients in that group continued to meet the criteria for drug treatment.

This research shows that lifestyle modifications such as diet and exercise can greatly decrease the number of patients who need blood-pressure-lowering medication. This is particularly true for people who have blood pressure in the range of 130 to 160 mmHg systolic and between 80 and 99 mmHg diastolic. Such changes would be just as helpful for people with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and for patients on medication for high blood pressure.

Source: American Heart Association


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Meena Azzollini

Meena is passionate about holistic wellbeing, alternative healing, health and personal power and uses words to craft engaging feature articles to convey her knowledge and passion. She is a freelance writer and content creator from Adelaide, Australia, who draws inspiration from family, travel and her love for books and reading.

A yoga practitioner and a strong believer in positive thinking, Meena is also a mum to a very active young boy. In her spare time, she loves to read and whip up delicious meals. She also loves the smell of freshly made coffee and can’t ever resist a cheesecake. And she gets tickled pink by anything funny!