Healthy lifestyle cuts hypertension risk by two thirds

Washington: Adopting healthy behaviours regarding alcohol, physical activity, vegetable intake and body weight can help reduce the risk of hypertension by two thirds, suggests new study.

According to the World Health Organization, hypertension is the leading cause of mortality in the world, contributing annually to over 7 million deaths (about 15 percent of all deaths). Therefore, prevention of hypertension is essential to improving health and preventing morbidity and mortality, both in developing and developed countries.

The purpose of this study was to examine whether five major cardiovascular disease related lifestyle factors – smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity, obesity and consumption of vegetables – predict the future increase of blood pressure and development of clinical hypertension, and need for antihypertensive drug treatment.

This large prospective population-based cohort study included 9,637 Finnish men and 11,430 women who were 25 to 74 years of age and free of hypertension during the baseline measurements (1982-2002). Healthy lifestyle factors were defined as: (1) not smoking, (2) alcohol consumption less than 50g per week, (3) leisure time physical activity at least 3 times per week, (4) daily consumption of vegetables, and (5) normal weight (BMI

Smoking was omitted from the final analysis.

“Even though smoking is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, it was not associated with the development of hypertension in our analyses, which is in accordance with previous studies,” said Professor Pekka Jousilahti from National Institute for Health and Welfare.

The risk of hypertension was only one third among those having all four healthy lifestyle factors compared to those having none, according to Professor Jousilahti.

“Even having one to three healthy lifestyle factors reduced the risk of hypertension remarkably. For example having two healthy lifestyle factors reduced the risk of hypertension by nearly 50 percent in men and by more than 30 percent in women,” he said.

“Our analysis suggests that adherence to healthy lifestyle factors may have more of an impact on risk of hypertension in men than women. This could be because of the stronger association of obesity and alcohol consumption with the risk of hypertension in men than in women,” he added.

The research suggests that lifestyle modification has a huge public health potential to prevent hypertension.

Professor Jousilahti presented the findings at the ESC Congress.