Proven Lifestyle Interventions to Reduce Your Blood Pressure: Weight Loss, Exercise, and More
If your blood pressure is above 120/80, you are among the nearly half of adults in the United States who have elevated blood pressure. Lifestyle interventions such as healthful nutrition, weight loss, and exercise, are an ACC/AHA Class 1a recommendation for all individuals throughout life to prevent hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
So how much do specific lifestyle interventions actually impact your blood pressure? Here are the top 3.
Weight loss is a core recommendation and should be achieved through a combination of reduced calorie intake and increased physical activity. The BP-lowering effect of weight loss in patients with elevated BP is consistent with the corresponding effect in patients with established HTN, with an apparent dose–response relationship of about 1 mmHg per kg of weight loss. Achievement andmaintenance of weight loss through behavior change are challenging but feasible over prolonged periods of follow-up. For those who do not meet their weight loss goals with nonpharmacological interventions, pharmacotherapy (such as GLP-1s) or bariatric procedures can be considered.
A BP-lowering effect of increased physical activity has been repeatedly demonstrated in clinical trials, especially during dynamic aerobic exercise, but also during dynamic resistance training and static isometric exercise. The average reductions in SBP with aerobic exercise are approximately 2 to 4 mmHg and 5 to 8 mmHg in adult patients with normal blood pressure and hypertension, respectively. Most trials have been of relatively short duration, but increased physical activity has been an intrinsic component of longer-term weight reduction interventions used to reduce BP and prevent hypertension. BP-lowering effects have been reported with lower and higher-intensity exercise, and with continuous and interval exercise training. Meta-analyses suggest isometric exercise results in substantial lowering of BP.
Reducing Alcohol Intake
In observational studies, there is a strong, predictable direct relationship between alcohol consumption and BP, especially above an intake of 3 standard drinks per day (36 oz beer, 15 oz of wine, 4.5 oz of distilled spirits). Meta-analyses of RCTs that have studied the effect of reduced alcohol consumption on BP in adults have identified a significant reduction in systolic BP (SBP) and diastolic BP (DBP). The benefit has seemed to be consistent across trials, but confined to those consuming ≥3 drinks/day, as well as dose dependent, with those consuming ≥6 drinks/day at baseline who reduce their alcohol intake by about 50%, experiencing an average reduction in SBP/DBP of approximately 5.5/4.0 mm Hg.
If you want to learn about nutrition specific interventions for blood pressure, read more here.
Dr. Belardo is a cardiologist in a multidisciplinary practice in Newport Beach, California. Dr. Belardo sees patients for cardiovascular disease, preventive cardiology, advanced lipidology, cardiometabolic health, and weight loss. She is the co-chair of the American Society of Preventive Cardiology Nutrition Committee, a member of the American College of Cardiology Nutrition and Lifestyle Committee, and the Communications Catalyst for the California Chapter of American College of Cardiology.
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