Controlling high blood pressure - news and updates

Controlling high blood pressure is a major preoccupation for many, so there is plenty of new information circulating all the time, and there is as much hype and misleading info as there are useful facts.

Here I will highlight what I consider to be some of the most relevant, interesting and exciting new information on controlling high blood pressure. So, please drop by regularly – from time to time there is bound to be something that will help you in your quest for control.

When I find something that deserves extra attention I may deal with it on the blog page which you can access here, and to ensure you don’t miss out you can subscribe to the RSS feed using the link to your left.

Physical activity decreases salt's harmful effect on blood pressure

Study report at the American Heart Association NPAM Meeting:

running on beach ATLANTA, March 23, 2011 — A study, reported at the American Heart Association’s Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism/Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention 2011 Scientific Sessions, has found that the less physically active you are, the more your blood pressure rises in response to a high-salt diet and suggests that following a low-salt diet may be particularly important in controlling high blood pressure among sedentary people.

“Patients should be advised to increase their physical activity and eat less sodium,” said Casey M. Rebholz, M.P.H., lead author of the study and a medical student at the Tulane School of Medicine and doctoral student at the Tulane University School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine in New Orleans. “Restricting sodium is particularly important in lowering blood pressure among more sedentary people.”

Investigators compared study participants’ blood pressure on two one-week diets, one low in sodium (3,000 mg/day) and the other high in sodium (18,000 mg/day). (The American Heart Association recommends consuming less than 1,500 mg/day of sodium. )

Based on physical activity questionnaires, researchers divided participants into four groups ranging from very active to quite sedentary. The average increases in systolic blood pressure after switching from low to high sodium, adjusted for age and gender, were 5.27 mm Hg in the least active group and 3.88 mm Hg in the most active group.

“In all the analyses we found a dose-response relationship with the more activity, the better,” Rebholz said. The participants were 1,906 Han Chinese adults (average age 38) in the Genetic Epidemiology Network of Salt Sensitivity (GenSalt), a large project to identify genetic and environmental factors contributing to salt sensitivity.

The GenSalt project is located in rural China because the homogeneous population makes it more likely that genes influential to controlling high blood pressure will be identified.

(Full report available at:

Herbal medicines will need to be registered to be sold in UK

running on beach Herbal medicines will have to be licensed by the United Kingdom’s agency for registering medicine and medical devices from the end of April 2011 to be on sale legally.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has introduced the new scheme, traditional herbal registration in a bid to improve the safety of patients. However, the scheme does not deal with herbal medicines’ effectiveness.

To comply with the new regulations companies will have to have shown that they have met safety, quality, and manufacturing standards as well as including clear information for patients with the product.

All products registered under the scheme will include a nine digit registration number starting with the letters THR on the container. The certification mark, THR, will be a pictorial aid for consumers to easily identify which herbal products have met the agency’s safety standards.

Richard Woodfield, head of herbal medicine policy at the agency, said, “We know that some operators relied on the belief that natural means safe in order to disguise low standards. The public had to guess the safety of a product.

“The new regulatory regime means more reward for companies who can actually deliver quality, safety, and patient information.”

The full report at the BMJ can be read here.

Comment: This has implications for controlling high blood pressure as there is a large market for herbal remedies. The report does emphasise, however, that the measure focuses on safety. In other words, claims about efficacy in controlling high blood pressure still do not have to be supported by proof of any sort.

Sugary beverages raise blood pressure

Researchers say consuming sugar sweetened beverages is associated with higher blood pressure levels in adults, even after adjusting for body mass index. The findings come from the International Study of Macro/ Micronutrients and Blood Pressure (INTERMAP).

In the study, scientists noted people who drink sugary beverages have a less healthy diet that might be contributing to elevated blood pressure. For every sweetened drink consumed daily, blood pressure was 1.6 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) higher and diastolic blood pressure was higher by 0.8 mm Hg.

The study, published in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association, found blood pressure levels were higher in individuals who consumed more glucose and fructose, sweeteners that are found in high-fructose corn syrup and also more severely elevated in association with sugar and sodium intake.

"This points to another possible intervention for controlling high blood pressure," said Paul Elliott, Ph.D., senior author and professor in the Department of Epidemiology and biostatistics in the School of Public Health at Imperial College London. "These findings lend support for recommendations to reduce the intake of sugar-sweetened beverages, as well as added sugars and sodium in an effort to reduce blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health."

Original report at

Adherence course reduces hypertension

A high proportion of patients with high blood pressure are failing to take their medication properly and would benefit clinically from a course of 'adherence therapy', according to new research from the University of East Anglia (UEA) in England.

Controlling high blood pressure in many people requires daily medication for life, but around half of patients with hypertension fail to reduce their blood pressure because they are not taking their prescribed medication correctly. Some cease taking their medication altogether, others only take some of it, and others do not follow the correct instructions, for example.

The reasons for this non-adherence are complex and include ambivalence about taking drugs, concerns over side effects, and complexity of treatment regimes.

The UEA resesarchers studied 136 patients with high blood pressure in three outpatient clinics in Jordan. Half were given a course of seven weekly 'adherence therapy' sessions and half continued with their usual treatment.

Published in the Journal of Human Hypertension, the results show that the patients given adherence therapy took 97 per cent of their medications (compared with only 71 per cent for those given treatment as usual) and, on average, reduced their blood pressure by around 14 per cent – taking it to just above the healthy range.

Lead author Prof Richard Gray of UEA's School of Nursing and Midwifery said: "Our findings suggest a clear clinical benefit in these patient-centred sessions.

Adherence therapy was originally developed by Prof Gray to help in controlling high blood pressure in patients with mental health problems who failed to take their medication correctly.

Reference: 'Adherence therapy for medication non-compliant patients with hypertension: a randomised controlled trial' by Fadwa Allalaiqa, Katherine Deane, Ahmed Nawafleh, Allan Clark and Richard Gray is published by the Journal of Human Hypertension on February 17 2011.

Full press release can be accessed here.

Deep Brain Stimulation may help in controlling high blood pressure in hard-to-control patients

Researchers were surprised to discover what may be a potential new treatment for difficult-to-control high blood pressure, according to a case report published in the January 25, 2011, print issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

The report involved one man who received a deep brain stimulator to treat his pain from central pain syndrome that developed after a stroke. Deep brain stimulation uses a surgical implant similar to a cardiac pacemaker to send electrical pulses to the brain.

The 55-year-old man was diagnosed with high blood pressure at the time of the stroke, and his blood pressure remained high even though he was taking four drugs to control it. While the electrical stimulation did not permanently alleviate his pain, researchers were surprised to see that stimulation decreased his blood pressure enough that he could stop taking all of the blood pressure drugs.

News release from Science Full story can be accessed here.

Implantable device for controlling high blood pressure

CVRx, Inc. announced the results of a four-year European study evaluating their Rheos® System at the 20th meeting of the European Society of Hypertension in June 2010. The system is the first device designed for controlling high blood pressure and offers a future treatment option for the millions of people who cannot control their blood pressure with medications, according to Dr. Bram Kroon, Associate Professor and Vascular Medicine Specialist from the Department of Internal Medicine, MUMC+, Maastricht, who presented the results.

The findings, from the Device-Based Therapy of Hypertension (DEBuT-HT) study, show a significant reduction in blood pressure in patients who have drug-resistant hypertension and had a systolic blood pressure above 160 mmHg prior to receiving the device. After four years of treatment, Rheos reduced systolic blood pressure by an average of 53mmHg (193 mmHg vs. 140 mmHg). Blood pressure was reduced significantly each year, with the largest decrease occurring in year four. Many of these patients were able to reach their blood pressure goal. Over this time period the number of medications that patients were taking to treat their hypertension decreased from an average of 5 at baseline to 3.4 medications at 4 years.

"These long-term results demonstrate the sustained effect that the Rheos System has on reducing blood pressure," Dr. Kroon said.

The Rheos System uses Baroreflex Activation Therapy® (BAT®) that is designed to trigger the body's own natural blood flow regulation system for controlling high blood pressure and heart failure. The Rheos System works by electrically activating the baroreceptors, the body’s natural blood pressure sensors, located on the carotid artery.

When activated, signals are sent to the brain, which responds by telling the arteries to relax, the heart to slow down and the kidneys to reduce fluid in the body, thus lowering both excessive blood pressure and workload on the heart.

This system includes three components: a small device that is implanted under the collar bone, two thin lead wires that are implanted at the left and right carotid arteries and connected to the device; and the Rheos Programmer System, an external device used by doctors to non-invasively regulate the activation energy therapy from the device to the leads. The therapy can be adjusted to meet each patient’s individual needs as they change over time, providing personalized treatment.

For more information you can visit their website.

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This page was last modified on : April 24, 2011.

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