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How to Lower Blood Pressure? Doctors Compare Treatment Options

Update Date: Apr 23, 2013 02:44 PM EDT

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, afflicts nearly 26 percent of the world population, and is a contributor to health complications, such as strokes and cardiovascular episodes. Since hypertension often develops as a result of a poor diet that is high in salts and fats, doctors have repeatedly encouraged patients to change their diets while researchers have adamantly searched for alternative methods in lowering blood pressure. Previous studies have found that treating high blood pressure might not be limited to drugs. Becoming more active by taking part in yoga, aerobic exercises and strength training, along with meditation can help lower one's blood pressure. In an effort to compare the effects of these non-drug therapies to drug treatments, a panel of researchers, led by Dr. Robert Book, a professor of medicine from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, set up by the American Heart Association aimed to tackle that question.

The group of researchers looked at existing data compiled from previous studies with the goal of devising an overall analysis on the effects of these therapy options in treating hypertension. The data, which was provided from 1,000 studies that took place between 2006 and 2011, was composed from people with blood pressure over 120/80 mm Hg. The researchers focused on three categories of treatment, which included exercise routines, behavioral therapies, and non-invasive therapeutic options, such as acupuncture. The researchers found that all three non-drug treatment options revealed very small degrees of benefit.

In terms of exercise, which included aerobic, resistance, or weight training, the researchers concluded that all three types reduced blood pressure. However, certain forms of exercise, such as isometric exercises were more effective than other forms, such as walking. Due to this finding, the researchers suggested that in order to lower blood pressure, people would need to exercise at a more intense level. Behavioral therapies, such as meditation, only treated hypertension effectively if it could also effectively lowered stress. However, evidence in this category was not strong enough for the researchers to believe that meditation could lower blood pressure. Lastly, the evidence for non-invasive options, such as acupuncture depended on individual responses.

The researchers concluded that these therapy options could be tried by patients who do not respond to medications since these options do not have negative side effects. However, the panel concluded that individuals should focus on a combination of drugs and therapy in treating their hypertension. Replacing drugs that are effective with these therapy options is not recommended.

The findings were reported in the journal, Hypertension.

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