Lifestyle changes lower heart risk

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted May 1, 2006

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Men and women with elevated blood pressure who make healthy lifestyle changes and sustain them for up to a year and a half can substantially reduce their rates of hypertension and potentially decrease their heart disease risk, according to a study in the April 4 Annals of Internal Medicine.

More than one-third of participants in a National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute study had high blood pressure at the beginning of the study and 62% who followed exercise and diet guidance -- including the DASH, or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, diet -- were able to control their hypertension, said the researchers.

The rates of control were even better than the 50% control rates typically found when single-drug therapy is used, said the researchers.

A total of 810 men and women ages 25 and older with either prehypertension or stage 1 hypertension, who were not taking medication, participated in the study.

They were divided into three groups. One served as a control, two received counseling on weight loss and diet improvement, and one of the two was also provided guidance on the DASH diet. While all groups lowered their blood pressure, the greatest gain was seen in the group that had followed the DASH diet.

"This shows that people at risk for heart disease can successfully and simultaneously make multiple changes in lifestyle, for a substantial benefit," said Eva Obarzanek, PhD, a research nutritionist and co-author of the study.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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