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NMU 104 – Specific Lifestyle Program Reduces High Blood Pressure in Patients 40-80 Years Old

Nutrition / Natural Medicine Update No 104 (September 11, 2018)

with Dr. James Meschino


Topic: Specific Lifestyle Program Reduces High Blood Pressure in Patients 40-80 Years Old

Source: American Heart Association (September 8, 2018)


It may surprise you to learn that lifestyle changes are the first step in reducing high blood pressure, according to the 2017 American Guidelines published by the College of Cardiology/American Heart Association. We are so accustomed to seeing drugs used as the first line of treatment in controlling high blood pressure, but nutrition and lifestyle change are actually the recommended first-line treatment in uncomplicated cases of mild high blood pressure. Mild high blood pressure is defined as a blood pressure between 140/90 to 159/99mmHg, which accounts for a high percentage of high blood pressure (hypertension) cases.

The powerful effect of nutrition and lifestyle on lowering high blood pressure was once again re-affirmed by an important study released by the American Heart Association in September of 2018. In this study, researchers recruited 129 overweight or obese men and women between ages 40 and 80 years who had high blood pressure. Blood pressures readings were between 130-160/80-99 mmHg, but none of the patients were taking medications to lower blood pressure at the time the study began. Yet, more than half of these subjects met the criteria for high blood pressure medication at the start of the study, according to recent high blood pressure guidelines.

Researchers randomly assigned each patient to one of three 16-week programs. Participants in one group changed the content of their diet and took part in a weight management program that included behavioral counseling and supervised exercise 3X per week. They also adopted the DASH diet eating plan, which is a nutritional approach to lowering blood pressure. The DASH diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products, and minimizes consumption of red meat, salt and sweets. Participants in the second group changed diet only, focusing on the DASH diet with the help of a nutritionist. (no exercise or weight loss counseling). The third group didn’t change their exercise or eating habits.

The results of the 16-week (4 months) study showed that:

  • Those following the DASH diet and participating in the weight management program (counseling and supervised exercise) lost an average of 19 pounds and had reduced blood pressure by an average 16 mmHg systolic and 10 mmHg diastolic.
  • That is incredible success with weight loss (almost 20 pounds, on average) and with blood pressure reduction.
  • Those following only the DASH diet had blood pressure decreases of 11 mmHg systolic /8 mmHg diastolic. Also, pretty good results.
  • Adults who didn’t change their eating or exercise habits experienced a minimal blood pressure decline of an average 3 mmHg systolic/4 mmHg diastolic (almost negligible reduction).
  • By the study’s end, only 15 percent of those who had changed both their diet and their exercise habits were still candidates for antihypertensive medications, compared to 23 percent in the group that only changed their diet.
  • There was no change in the need for medications among those who didn’t change their diet or exercise habits. Fifty percent of them still met the criteria for high blood pressure drugs.


Research continues to show that in uncomplicated cases of mild high blood pressure that simple dietary and lifestyle changes can lower blood pressure into the ideal range, which eliminates the risk of side effects associated with blood pressure-lowering medications. In addition, the introduction of exercise and the elimination of high-fat meat and dairy products also helps to reduce blood sugar (glucose), cholesterol and triglycerides, all of which are key risk factors for heart disease and stroke, as is high blood pressure, of course. Reducing excess body weight also lowers risk for cardiovascular disease, which occurred in those following the Dash Diet, exercise and counseling program in this study. So, lifestyle and nutritional medicine is good medicine and effective medicine. There is a great deal we can do to reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease and it’s something we should take seriously, as heart attack, stroke, congestive heart failure, and other cardiovascular conditions are a leading cause of premature death and disability in our society.

I have included the link to the American Heart Association research study in the text below


Lifestyle changes reduce the need for blood pressure medications. The American Heart Association Meeting Report – Presentation P388: (September 8, 2018)

Eat Smart, Live Well, Look Great,

Dr. Meschino

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