New Research Focuses on Blood Pressure Control (Part 2)

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Last week, reported on new research that highlights the importance of understanding and controlling blood pressure levels in children and adults. So what can you do to reduce your chance of developing high blood pressure or control it if you have it?

Finding out what your (or your child’s) blood pressure is and asking your doctor whether it falls in the normal range is an important place to start. Quitting smoking, getting regular physical activity, and taking medicine if necessary are also important parts of the solution. In addition, two recent studies have highlighted the role of what you eat in controlling blood pressure levels and heart disease risk.

A large study published in the August issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that women who ate the most whole grains had a small but significant drop in their risk of developing high blood pressure. Using data collected from almost 30,000 participants in the Women’s Health Study, researchers found that middle-aged and older women who reported eating the most whole grains (such as dark bread, popcorn, oatmeal, and whole-grain breakfast cereals) at the outset of the study had an 11% lower risk of developing high blood pressure over the following decade compared to those women who ate the fewest whole grains. This association remained even when factors such as weight, smoking, and exercise were taken into consideration. The researchers hypothesized that fiber and nutrients found in the bran and germ of the grain (elements that are stripped away when grains are refined) may account for this change in high blood pressure risk.

Another study, published in the British Medical Journal in April, showed that adults with prehypertension who were able to reduce the amount of sodium in their diets had a 25% reduction in heart disease and stroke risk 10–15 years down the line. This study followed more than 2,400 people, aged 30–54, who were randomly assigned to receive either regular care or 18 months of education and counseling on reducing sodium intake. Those who had received counseling lowered their sodium intake by 25% to 30% and had a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease years later. While previous studies had linked sodium reduction to lower blood pressure levels, this study linked it directly to reduced cardiovascular risk.

For more information about high blood pressure, visit the American Heart Association’s page on the subject here.

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