Lifestyle changes for people with hypertension

Among the recommendations on changing the lifestyle habits of people with hypertension are:

  • Reducing sodium intake: although, as reported above, reducing salt intake does not always decrease blood pressure, it is important to limit the amount of this dietary component as a first approach to treating hypertension. Studies have shown that decreasing salt intake by about 4.4 grams per day can decrease systolic and diastolic blood pressures by 4.2 and 2.1 mmHg, respectively.
  • Change dietary habits: to counter hypertension, indications aimed at maintaining good health generally apply, namely: balancing dietary intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, fish and low-fat foods. The Mediterranean diet meets these characteristics.
  • Regulate the intake of coffee, tea and other beverages: the caffeine in coffee and other beverages has the effect of raising blood pressure in the short term, but regular coffee intake has been shown to reduce the frequency of cardiovascular events, so coffee consumption tailored to each individual’s blood pressure response may be indicated. Green tea and black tea are attributed a limited, but significant, blood pressure-reducing effect.
  • control alcohol intake: without considering true forms of ethylism, compulsively consuming large amounts of alcohol has a significant effect in raising blood pressure, so hypertensives should avoid such excesses.
  • Do adequate physical activity: when exercise is performed, there is an initial increase in blood pressure, particularly systolic blood pressure, which is followed by a brief reduction below baseline. Regular aerobic physical activity is effective in both preventing and treating hypertension. In general, the Guidelines suggest sustaining at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity 5 to 7 times a week, but this should be tailored to each individual’s physical function.
  • Decrease weight: in addition to being a risk factor in general for all cardiovascular diseases, excess weight has a direct effect on blood pressure, so reducing it is always indicated in hypertensives.
  • Stop smoking: studies have shown that in both people with normal blood pressure and hypertensives, smoking is associated with higher blood pressure values. Although there is no evidence of a reduction in blood pressure with smoking cessation, this should always be pursued because of the risks of such a habit in terms of the development of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Sources

  • M Volpe e S Sciarretta. Capitolo 45 L’ipertensione arteriosa. In: Manuale di malattie Cardiovascolari della Società Italiana di Cardiologia.
  • PK Whelton e coll. 2017 ACC/AHA/AAPA/ABC/ACPM/AGS/APhA/ASH/ASPC/NMA/PCNA Guideline for the Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Management of High Blood Pressure in Adults: Executive Summary. Hypertension. 2018;71:1269-1324.
  • LJ Visseren e coll. 2021 ESC Guidelines on cardiovascular disease prevention in clinical practice. European Heart Journal 2021; 00, 1-111.

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