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.