Lifestyle changes reduced the need for blood pressure medication in just 16 weeks. 129 men and women with high blood pressure engaged in 1 of the following programs: 1) diet plus a weight loss program including 3 exercise sessions per week, 2) diet only, and 3) no changes in diet or lifestyle. After 16 weeks, researchers found that the first group lost an average of 19 pounds and reduced their blood pressure so that 85% of them no longer needed blood pressure medication. In the second group, 77% of participants no longer needed blood pressure medication. The third group experienced only a minimal improvement in blood pressure. The American Heart Association’s Joint Hypertension Scientific Sessions
→Takeaway: It’s important to remember that all medications pose risk. In the case of high blood pressure medicines, common side effects include cough, diarrhea or constipation, dizziness, erection problems, feeling nervous, feeling tired and weak, headache, nausea or vomiting, skin rash, and unintentional weight gain or loss. Taking these side effects into consideration, it becomes clear that diet and lifestyle modifications should be considered as a viable first line therapy. While the DASH diet used in this study proves to be an effective dietary intervention for high blood pressure, many studiesshow that a plant-based (or vegan) diet is extremely effective in treating hypertension, and is actually the more important intervention when compared to exercise. A 2007 study compared the blood pressures of sedentary vegans, athletes eating a Western diet, and sedentary individuals eating a Western diet. The vegan group had significantly lower blood pressure than the other two groups. Looking for an easy-to-follow plant-based plan? Check out Dr. Chutkan’s The Microbiome Solution for a plan plus recipes!