Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes for Hypertension and Cardiovascular Risk Reduction


Karol Watson, MD, PhD, UCLA School of Medicine, 10833 Le Conte Avenue, 47-123CKS, Los Angeles, CA 90095


Elevated blood pressure is the most common chronic illness in the United States, affecting more than 50 million people. Hypertension is an even greater problem in the African American community. Traditionally, management of hypertension and cardiovascular risk reduction has focused on drug therapy; however, several studies have shown the benefits of therapeutic lifestyle changes for blood pressure lowering and cardiovascular risk reduction. Therapeutic lifestyle changes to reduce blood pressure have enormous potential as a means for preventing and controlling hypertension and thereby reducing the risk of coronary heart disease. Although the reductions in blood pressure are relatively modest with these approaches, they could potentially have a beneficial impact on overall cardiovascular morbidity and mortality when applied to the whole population. Because of their high prevalence of certain cardiovascular risk factors (e.g., obesity, diabetes mellitus) and greater salt sensitivity, therapeutic lifestyle changes have particular relevance for African Americans.