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Alternative therapies linked to reduced blood pressure

Reducing your blood pressure may be able to be achieved by certain alternative therapies, according to new research.

The American Heart Association says aerobic exercise, resistance or strength training and isometric hand grip exercises could all help patients with blood pressure levels exceeding 120/80 mm Hg.

They may also assist those who cannot tolerate or do not respond well to standard medication, it said.

Nurses should take note, however, that the association stresses such therapies should complement rather than replace traditional approaches to lowering blood pressure.

These include physical activity, weight management, not smoking or drinking excess amounts of alcohol, eating a low sodium balanced diet and taking medications when prescribed.

The association said that patients often question the value of alternative therapies, yet there has not been much proper research into this.

An expert panel studied the following three alternative remedy categories:

- exercise

- behavioural therapies, including meditation

- non-invasive procedures or devices such as acupuncture and device-guided slow breathing

Dietary and herbal treatments were not reviewed.

The study found that the alternative therapies rarely caused serious side effects and created few health risks.

It also found that some approaches were more beneficial than others and could be part of a thorough blood pressure-lowering treatment strategy.

Robert D. Brook, M.D., chair of the panel and an associate professor of medicine at the University of Michigan, said his team wanted to provide direction for patients who want to lower their blood pressure but do not like taking medications.

He said: “There aren’t many large well-designed studies lasting longer than a few weeks looking at alternative therapies, yet patients have a lot of questions about their value.”

High blood pressure, a leading risk factor for heart attack and strokes, affects more than a quarter of the world’s population and contributes to more than 13% of early deaths.

The study is published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension.


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