Healthcare professionals should consider stress reduction and mindfulness therapies for patients with high blood pressure, researchers say.
Based on the latest clinical and scientific evidence, an international panel of experts from 18 countries have made a series of recommendations on effective lifestyle changes that can help manage and prevent high blood pressure.
Making time for relaxing activities such as yoga and meditation and maintaining good sleep habits are some of the less apparent strategies that the experts say healthcare professionals should recommend to patients with high blood pressure.
The findings are published in a wide-reaching review in the Journal of Hypertension, which aims to provide a holistic set of recommendations for changes to lifestyle to reduce blood pressure. The guidelines focus on all areas of health, including movement and body weight, food and drink, the body and mind, as well as external factors such as air pollution.
Around the world, four in 10 people suffer from high blood pressure. The condition can be well managed with medications, but the best option is to make lifestyle interventions before starting on blood pressure medications.
The experts recommend that people with high blood pressure should follow long-standing recommendations to reduce blood pressure by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy diet, reducing the amount of salt consumed, stopping smoking and limiting alcohol intake.
Air pollution is strongly linked to increased blood pressure, and the researchers say that people should exercise in parks and open spaces where possible and away from busy roads. However, they believe that the most significant benefits in this area would be seen by government intervention and action to improve air quality.
In addition, the paper calls for healthcare professionals to consider recommending stress reduction techniques for their patients, such as meditation, muscle relaxation exercises, yoga and deep breathing, which can reduce blood pressure.
The researchers also suggest that exploring sleep patterns with a patient can have a beneficial outcome. Encouraging patients to look at their sleep quality, timing and duration to increase healthy sleeping patterns can reduce blood pressure.
Professor Bryan Williams from University College London said: ‘It all sounds like it is a bit soft and fluffy and not as dynamic, for example, as taking drugs, but these things make such an important contribution to reducing the effects of stress on the cardiovascular system and the evidence is accumulating.’
He added: ‘There’s so much people can do for themselves. All of us need to take a step back and say, actually, I should be able to find half an hour in my day to have a little bit of time to myself and decompress and just relax – whether it’s listening to music, going for a walk or going to the gym and doing some exercise.’