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Hypertension battle plan.

Despite several decades of progress in reducing the prevalence of high blood pressure, federal health officials believe more can be done to combat this disease. Last week, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) unveiled a new program aimed at preventing hypertension.

Americans can reduce their risk of developing hypertension with life-style changes, including cutting back on salt consumption, says Paul K. Whelton, chairman of an NHLBI committee that produced a report outlining the prevention strategy. Noting the relationship between salt intake and blood pressure, his group advises people to ingest no more than 6 grams (approximately 3 teaspoons) of salt per day. In addition, it urges Americans to increase their physical activity, reduce alcohol consumption, and shed excess weight.

The prevention message is especially important for people at high risk of hypertension, such as African Americans and those with a family history of the disease, the committee noted. It urges special efforts to reach people whose blood pressure is slightly elevated but still within the normal range.

Scientists now believe that vascular complications of hypertension can begin well before people develop overt high blood pressure. The committee urged life-style changes for people with "high normal" blood pressure, which is defined as systolic pressures between 130 and 139 millimeters of mercury (mm/Hg) and diastolic pressures between 85 and 89 mm/Hg. Men with pressures that fall into this category have twice the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.

Life-style changes are also important for people with established hypertension, defined as systolic pressures of at least 140 mm/Hg and diastolic pressures of 90 mm/Hg or more. If that strategy fails to bring pressures down, however, NHLBI reemphasizes lowering blood pressure with drug therapy.
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Title Annotation:stress management to lower blood pressure
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Nov 7, 1992
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