A new program developed by a research team focuses on diet, exercise, and sleep as the keys to lowering blood pressure without using drugs. It is widely known that for people with elevated blood pressure, there is a wide variety of drugs and medical devices that can help bring blood pressure to a safer level.
Despite this wide range of available medical interventions, many of which are costly or carry side effects there is a much simpler way to bring blood pressure down, the researchers revealed.
Developed by a team led by Alfredo Mejia, an associate professor in the Department of Public Health, Nutrition & Wellness at Andrews University in Michigan, the experts called the new program ‘’NEWSTART LIFESTYLE’’ program.
Presenting his findings before the American Society for Nutrition’s annual meeting in Boston, Mejia disclosed that the program revolves around following a vegan diet with primarily plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, seeds, and nuts.
In addition to the diet, Mejia disclosed that participants get regular exercise, drink adequate amounts of water, and get a good night’s sleep. According to the study, about 117 people with high blood pressure who participated in the program for 14 days recorded a stable blood pressure.
‘’By the end of this period, half of the participants had lowered their blood pressure to a recommended level while other participants also attained lower blood pressure.
‘’These results are equivalent to the effects of standard blood pressure medications. In all, 93 percent of the participants were able to reduce their dose or eliminate medications entirely’’, the study revealed.
The experts added that while it requires a substantial amount of willpower, making lifestyle changes should always be first and foremost for people who want to lower their blood pressure.
Results not surprising
According Dr. Andrew Akinwole, a medical practitioner at Wuse General Hospital, the results is not surprising. He said that he always advised his patients with BP issues to exercise and eat right.
“Exercise, particularly cardio and aerobic exercise, has been known to be a potent dropper of blood pressure for a long time, and we know that fruits and vegetables rich in potassium and naturally occurring nitrates can actually lower blood pressure as effectively as many of the medications.
“So that, to me, is no surprise. It’s nice that they put it all together in this study’’, Dr. Akinwole added
While describing as unfortunate that many patients see the prospect of taking a simple medication as an easier and more appealing way of lowering blood pressure than undergoing lifestyle changes, Dr Akinwole added that regular exercise helps to promote healthy lifestyle.
‘’But even for patients who are prescribed medications for high blood pressure, lifestyle will always be a factor. Regular exercise curbs diabetes, heart disease, obesity, High blood pressure and it generally makes you feel much better.
“If you look at the latest blood pressure guidelines, no matter what you do, lifestyle intervention is supposed to be part of the plan. Therefore, even if you use the so-called standard Western medicine, lifestyle is still a factor. I want to make sure I underscore that because that is something that is often missed.
‘’Sometimes, it isn’t just patients who gloss over lifestyle changes it’s doctors as well’’, he added.
Dr. Akinwole further referred to a 2017 study that he co-authored in which 90 percent of the more than 900 cardiologists surveyed reported that they had received no or minimal nutrition education during their training.
“It is important to remind all the healthcare people out there that we need to arm ourselves with every tool in the arsenal.
“That includes medications and procedures of course, but we really need to learn more about lifestyle medicine, and a lot of those gaps that are created during our training, we really need to spend time filling so that we have the tools available to treat diseases better and more cheaply, for that matter”.
It’s simple, but it takes work
For people who want to lower their blood pressure, it is not easy to hear that they need to change their diet and get more physical activity. However, when it comes to blood pressure and cardiovascular health, there really are not any shortcuts.
While virtually all patients will see promising results just a few weeks after incorporating lifestyle changes, they will still need to continue the regimen in order to maintain good health.
Dr. Akinwole said that for patients who have mildly elevated blood pressure, he would recommend a multi-week program of lifestyle changes. ‘’Generally, blood pressure levels normalize in this time’’.
He added that for patients who have more significant blood pressure issues, he would prescribe medications along with an intensive focus on lifestyle modifications. While for patients who follow this plan might initially miss eating their favorite foods, he said that the results tend to speak for themselves.
“I often get calls from patients who would complain that they are feeling miserable and it turns out they’ve implemented the lifestyle modification and their blood pressure has dropped so much that we have to get rid of the medicine, which is great,” he added.
‘’When it comes to aiding cardiovascular health and bringing blood pressure down, there are four tenets to follow in terms of lifestyle change. The first two are following a predominantly plant-based, whole food, unprocessed diet combined with getting at least 30 minutes of moderately rigorous, restless exercise per day.
“This does not mean I want them exercising so hard that they pass out, but I want them to be challenged, even if it means taking a break if they have to.
“For some people, that may mean nothing more than a gentle walk with periodic breaks, but as the weeks go on they need to challenge themselves to get rid of those breaks, little by little. The third facet is stress relief techniques such as yoga, introspection, and other mindfulness exercises.
“The last part, believe it or not, is actually connections, support, and love,” explained Akinwole. “We know that people that have the most connections, support, and love have the best cardiovascular outcomes.
“When you combine all four of those; eating plants, exercising more, stressing less, and loving more health outcomes improve in lots of categories, including blood pressure and coronary disease. So that is really what I try to get patients to do’’, he added.