Combination of Healthy Lifestyle Choices Can Help Lower Incidence of Hypertension in Women

Boston, Massachusetts (PressExposure) August 11, 2009 -- As a risk factors for stroke, heart attack, heart failure, chronic kidney disease and shortened life expectancy, high blood pressure (hypertension) contributes to more excess deaths in women than any other preventable factor. In a novel study that looked at a combination of healthy lifestyle choices in regards to hypertension, researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) found that simultaneously addressing six modifiable risk factors drastically reduced the risk of developing hypertension. This research appears in the July 22, 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers investigated previously established factors that are independently associated with high blood pressure and found that, when combined, maintaining a normal weight, eating a healthy diet, exercising an average of 30 minutes per day, drinking alcohol in moderation, avoiding over the counter pain relievers and taking at least 400 micrograms of folic acid per day, resulted in a nearly 80 percent reduction in the risk of developing high blood pressure.

"If all of the women in the study followed these six low risk factors, then 78 percent of all new cases of high blood pressure may conceivably have been avoided," said John Forman, MD, of the Renal Division at BWH and lead study author. Researchers studied nearly 84,000 women 27 to 44 years of age in the second Nurses' Health Study (NHS II) who had normal blood pressure at the beginning of the study. After following the women's diet and lifestyle over 14 years and determining whether or not they developed high blood pressure, researchers found that for each adopted healthy lifestyle change, the risk of developing hypertension decreased.

"Adopting these low-risk lifestyle factors could prevent the majority of new-onset hypertension in young women, including those with a family history of hypertension," said Dr. Forman. "Previously, women may have believed that they had no control over their development of hypertension if their parents had hypertension, but this study demonstrates that they can reduce their risk,".

Researchers also found that all but one of the low-risk factors could be adopted in any combination to decrease risk of development. Women who were obese, however, did not benefit from the other low-risk factors in any combination, indicating the added importance of maintaining a healthy weight.

This study was supported by grants from the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health.

About Brigham and Women's Hospital

Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) is a 777-bed nonprofit teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School and a founding member of Partners HealthCare, an integrated health care delivery system. BWH is committed to excellence in patient care with expertise in virtually every specialty of medicine and surgery. The BWH medical preeminence dates back to 1832, and today that rich history in clinical care is coupled with its national leadership in quality improvement and patient safety initiatives and its dedication to educating and training the next generation of health care professionals. In July 2008, the hospital opened the Carl J. and Ruth Shapiro Cardiovascular Center, the most advanced center of its kind. Through investigation and discovery conducted at its Biomedical Research Institute (BRI), BWH is an international leader in basic, clinical and translational research on a diversity of human diseases and is at the forefront of personalized medicine. BWH has approximately 900 scientific investigators and more than $450 million in research support, more than 50 percent of which comes from the NIH. BWH is also home to major landmark population studies, including the Nurses' and Physicians' Health Studies and the Women's Health Initiative, which have provided important information on diet and lifestyle risk factors for common chronic diseases. For more information about BWH, please visit Brigham and Women's Hospital.

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Press Release Submitted On: August 10, 2009 at 7:39 am
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