UAB Nutritionist Dr. Beth Kitchin joined us with some pointers on the key to healthy blood pressure. High blood pressure is dangerous. It's a major risk factor for having a stroke and a heart attack. Luckily, researchers know a lot about how to keep our blood pressure healthy. But now, researchers at UAB have focused in on which risk factor plays the biggest role on blood pressure. The researchers looked at the things that increase blood pressure:
- Never smoking
- No or moderate alcohol drinking
- Physical Activity
- Eating a Healthy Diet
They analyzed data from the CARDIA - Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults. It's a study that began back in 1983 with people 18 to 30 years old. The researchers have been studying them ever since to look at all sorts heart health outcomes. UAB researchers analyzed 4630 of the participants. They used information gathered at 8 different times over 25 years. Of the four healthy habits studied, staying at a healthy weight had the biggest association on keeping blood pressure in check over the 25 years of the study. The people who stayed at a healthy weight were 41% less likely to have an increase in their blood pressure as they got older. Never smoking and no to moderate alcohol drinking were association with less of an increase of an increase in blood pressure. Surprisingly, physical activity and a healthy diet were not associated with blood pressure changes. So, from this research, staying at a healthy weight - a BMI of 25 as the cutoff - seemed to have the strongest relationship to maintaining a healthy blood pressure as people aged. But keep in mind a couple of things about this study:
- It was observational. That means it can't show cause and effect – only links or associations.
- It used self-reported data. So the people in the study were telling the researchers about what they were eating and how much they were exercising. So while these two habits did not track with blood pressure, some really good studies -DASH- have shown that your diet can lower blood pressure.
- This study has not yet been peer reviewed and published in a scientific journal. The researchers presented it at a meeting of the American Heart Association.
So, keep up with your healthy eating – with a goal of getting to and staying at a healthy weight!