07/30/2009 - Articles

Healthy lifestyle reduces high blood pressure among women

By: Susan Aldridge, medical journalist, PhD


High blood pressure is a potent risk factor for heart disease and stroke. The good news is that there is a great deal you can do for yourself in treating high blood pressure – although several medications are also available.

Researchers for the long-running Nurses’ Health Study at Brigham and Women’s Hospital now show that women who followed a healthy lifestyle were less likely to have high blood pressure.

The researchers looked at six different risk factors – all of which are modifiable with lifestyle change – and high blood pressure among a group of nearly 84,000 women.  None had high blood pressure at the start of the study in 1991 and were followed up, with new cases of high blood pressure recorded, till 2005.  The six lifestyle factors were: body mass index (BMI) of under 25, 30 minutes vigorous exercise per day, a healthy diet based on the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) approach, modest alcohol intake, daily intake of 400 micrograms of more of folic acid and low use of non-narcotic analgesics.

During follow up, there were 12,319 new cases of high blood pressure. All of the six factors were independently linked to a lower risk of high blood pressure and the more factors a woman included in her lifestyle, the lower the risk turned out to be.  Of these factors,  a healthy BMI seemed to be the most important one.  But, of course, regular exercise and a prudent diet will help achieve this healthy BMI.  The DASH diet is rich in fruit and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes and lower fat dairy products, with low intake of salt, red and processed meats and sweetened beverages. 



Forman J, Stampfre M and Curhan G Diet and lifestyle risk factors associated with incident hypertension in women Journal of the American Medical Association July 22 2009 302;401-411

Created on: 07/30/2009
Reviewed on: 07/30/2009

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Anonymous wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

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