Lifestyle Tweak that Lowers Your Blood Pressure the Most

By Lisa Franchi on September 25, 2017

You probably knew that certain lifestyle behaviours can prevent you from developing high blood pressure. But is there any specific behaviour that has the most impact on reducing your risk?

High blood pressure is a common condition affecting both the young and old. When a person has high blood pressure, the walls of their arteries are receiving too much pressure repeatedly. While it has unnoticeable symptoms, if untreated, it increases your risk of serious problems such as heart attacks and strokes.

Numerous studies suggest that there are certain lifestyle behaviours that influence the risk of people suffering from high blood pressure. But among these, it seems that maintaining a healthy weight seems to be the most important, according to new research. 

The new study was led by John Booth III, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

"Our results indicate by maintaining a healthy body weight into middle age, you can help preserve low blood pressure," he said.

"There have been increases in blood pressure at younger ages, which are linked to heart disease and stroke," Booth said. "We evaluated the long-term impact of maintaining healthy behaviours on [high blood pressure]."

Booth and his team looked at varying lifestyle behaviours that are known to help control blood pressure. These are: 1) not smoking, 2) eating a healthy diet, 3) drinking 7 or fewer alcoholic drinks, 4) exercising for at least 150 minutes per day, and 5) maintaining a healthy weight.

The study involved 4,700 volunteers who were between 18 and 30 years old.

Over 25 years of follow-up, the researchers measured blood pressure and health behaviours eight times.

Among these behaviours, they found that people who maintained a healthy body weight were 41 percent less likely to see their blood pressure rise as they approached middle age. They had a 27 percent decreased risk of high blood pressure by middle age.

Staying physically active and eating a healthy diet weren’t specifically linked to a better blood pressure.

Meanwhile, not smoking and drinking little to no alcohol seemed to keep blood pressure lower in middle age. 

But the researchers said a larger study is needed to confirm these because they may have been a chance finding.

Does this also mean that the other healthy behaviours are irrelevant to maintaining normal blood pressure? Not at all, according to Booth.

He said other health behaviours are linked to maintaining a healthy weight, with exercise and a healthy diet chief among them.

"Multiple factors are contributing to the risk for developing high blood pressure across the life span, and these factors all interact together," Booth noted.

There are also other ways in which weight gain contribute to high blood pressure. According to Frank H. Netter M.D. School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University in North Haven, Conn, “when you gain weight, your heart has to work harder because the weight has a compressive effect on the blood vessels. Over decades, that can produce cardiac problems. The vascular bed—the blood vessels—stiffens as we get older," 

Source of this article:

John N. Booth III, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow, American Heart Association’s Strategically Focused Hypertension Research Network, University of Alabama at Birmingham; Howard Selinger, M.D., chair, family medicine, Frank H. Netter M.D. School of Medicine, Quinnipiac University, North Haven, Conn.; Sept. 14, 2017, presentation, American Heart Association meeting, San Francisco

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