, Volume 34, Issue 5, pp 307-316
Date: 23 Sep 2012

Effects of Exercise, Diet and Weight Loss on High Blood Pressure

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Abstract

High blood pressure (BP) is a major health problem in the US, affecting more than 50 million people. Although high BP is among the most common reasons for outpatient visits, BP control is often inadequate. It is well established that BP can be lowered pharmacologically in hypertensive individuals; however, anti-hypertensive medications are not effective for everyone, and may be costly and result in adverse effects that impair quality of life and reduce adherence. Moreover, abnormalities associated with high BP, such as insulin resistance and hyper-lipidaemia, may persist or may even be exacerbated by some anti-hypertensive medications. Consequently, there has been a great deal of interest in the development and application of behavioural interventions in the management of high BP.

The main behavioural interventions that are recommended to reduce BP are exercise and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. Weight loss is also recommended for BP reduction in overweight individuals. Exercise alone is associated with reductions of approximately 3.5 and 2.0mm Hg in systolic (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP), respectively. Patients fed a DASH diet (a diet high in low-fat dairy products and fibre, including fruits and vegetables) had reductions in SBP and DBP of 5.5 and 3.0mm Hg, respectively, compared with those consuming a standard US diet. Reductions of approximately 8.5mm Hg SBP and 6.5mm Hg DBP accompany weight loss of 8kg. In overweight hypertensive patients, a combined exercise and weight-loss intervention has been shown to decrease SBP and DBP by 12.5 and 7.9mm Hg, respectively.

There is evidence to suggest that these decreases in BP are associated with improvements in left ventricular structure and function, and peripheral vascular health. Both exercise training and weight loss have been shown to decrease left ventricular mass and wall thickness, reduce arterial stiffness and improve endothelial function. These data support the role of behavioural interventions in the treatment of patients with elevations in BP.