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Blood Pressure Strategies Get Short Shrift from Media

A close read of a new Canadian study shows it doesn’t say what everybody says it says.

By Megan Othersen Gorman


Blood Pressure Strategies Get Short Shrift from Media

Cutting salt from your diet can lower your blood pressure--if you actually do it.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—The way some media outlets are reporting a new Canadian study, you’d think we should all just give up on living a healthy lifestyle and line up for hypertension medication right away. In the study, researchers found that more hypertension patients were able to maintain a healthy blood pressure with medication only than with a combination of medication and healthy lifestyle changes. It may seem like that means exercise and a healthy diet are a waste of time if you want to beat high blood pressure. But what this actually points to is the fact that making lasting and significant changes can be more challenging than people realize.

THE DETAILS: The researchers surveyed 2,551 men and women, aged 20 to 79. Twenty-one percent had hypertension (high blood pressure); of those, 41 percent were taking drugs for the condition, and 42 percent were taking drugs and making lifestyle changes (like eating differently or exercising) to control it. The scientists found that 85 percent of participants who used drugs alone had their blood pressure under control, while 78 percent of participants who used drugs and made lifestyle changes had their blood pressure under control.


More news about blood pressure:
How to Measure Your Blood Pressure at Home
Accuracy of Home Blood Pressure Monitors Questioned
Beat High Blood Pressure with Whole Grains


WHAT IT MEANS: So why wasn’t a healthy lifestyle more effective at lowering blood pressure? The researchers suggest that the study subjects weren’t living up to the healthy guidelines they claimed to be following—perhaps without realizing it. “It’s not that lifestyle changes can’t work,” says study co-author Frans Leenen, MD, PhD, director of the Hypertension Unit at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute in Canada. “We know that they do. It’s just that, if you get a low-sodium diet at the hospital that’s sufficient to lower blood pressure, for instance, it’s often harder than you think to carry it over to your real life.” As a result, the study authors caution against making half-hearted lifestyle changes to lower your blood pressure in lieu of drug therapy. You’ll simply be delaying treatment of a potentially serious condition, they say, if you’re not absolutely committed to restricting calories and salt, and boosting exercise.

Here’s how you can get serious about lowering your blood pressure:

• Measure your progress. Just because changing your lifestyle is difficult doesn’t means it isn’t worth trying—you just have to make sure you’re trying hard enough. Dr. Leenan suggests asking your doctor to give you a 24-hour urine analysis. If you’re significantly reducing your salt intake, the test will show it; if you’re not, it will show that, too. “You need to know objectively if you’re doing what you think you’re doing,” he says. “Only then can you evaluate your chosen therapy.” Keep a food diary so you can assess what you’re eating. And consider regular phone sessions with a nutrition specialist—new research suggests it’s an effective strategy for losing weight.

• Stop supersizing it. The one dietary change you can make that would have the biggest positive impact on your blood pressure? Forgoing fast food. “Fast food greatly increases your calorie and salt intake, both of which impact blood pressure,” says Dr. Leenan. “The high salt content in fast food will also compel you to drink more, and what’s available at those places? High-calorie, sugary sodas. It’s exponential.”

• Move it. Exercise leads to weight loss, and weight loss improves blood pressure. The equation is simple; the trick is to do it, not just say you’re doing it. A new report suggests you should aim for at least 50 minutes of exercise, five days a week, for weight loss.

Filed Under: BLOOD PRESSURE, HEART HEALTH

Published on: March 3, 2009



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High blood pressure drugs

I would encourage you to continue to ask your physician to pursue a generic drug therapy. However, keep in mind that the generic may not be suitable for your particular situation. Your doctor can decide.

Also, many drug manufacturers have programs for people with limited or no income. In fact, I received a pricey drug directly from Novartis when I didn't have health insurance. Again, your physician will have to assist with this. If he is not willing or able, then find someone who will give you the appropriate care you deserve.

Lastly, start excercising. Even though I still take meds, my pressure dropped 20 points when I got into a bootcamp excercise program 4 months ago.

I hope this is helpful. Be blessed.

Blood Pressure

I lost my health insurance and my medication for hypertension, at $270.00 a month, on unemployment it isn't an option for the medication. When I asked my doctor for a prescription for a generic brand so I could go to one of the big discount stores and get it for $4.00 he never returned my call.

Of course, I try to watch everything that goes in and my blood pressure goes from 122/65 sometimes to 188/90 in a matter of a couple of hours. That is without everything but my thyroid meds.

Yes I am overweight, and trying to work on it by watching my portion sizes and what I put in my mouth; try to walk some just to get moving. However, when my other ailments of back pain, knee pain, and shortness of breath kick in, it makes it hard to stick to a walking schedule.

Any advice?

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