Nonpharmacologic therapies that reduce blood pressure: a fresh perspective

Clin Cardiol. 1999 Jul;22(7 Suppl):III1-5. doi: 10.1002/clc.4960221502.


Traditional approaches to control the epidemic of blood pressure-related atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) have largely focused on drug therapy in persons with hypertension. Still, nonpharmacologic therapy, also termed lifestyle modification, has an important and expanding role that complements drug therapy. Specifically, nonpharmacologic therapies can serve as initial therapy in Stage 1 hypertensive patients, facilitate medication step down or withdrawal in patients with well-controlled hypertension, prevent hypertension in high-risk populations, and reduce blood pressure in normotensive individuals and thereby lower their risk of ASCVD. Traditional lifestyle modifications that reduce blood pressure include sodium reduction, weight loss, moderation of alcohol intake, and increased physical activity. Such strategies have been prominently advocated in the Fifth Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure. Recommendations to increase potassium, magnesium, and calcium intake were based primarily on general health considerations, not for control of high blood pressure. In its sixth and most recent report (JNC VI) published in 1997, the Joint National Committee has extended its recommendations. In addition to the traditional lifestyle recommendations, the JNC VI advocates increased potassium intake for control of high blood pressure. Furthermore, this policy-making body now recommends a healthy dietary pattern, that is, one that is rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products, and reduced in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol. This diet, which was rigorously evaluated in the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) clinical trial, substantially lowered blood pressure in normotensive and hypertensive individuals. These recent developments reinforce the hypothesis that multiple dietary factors influence blood pressure. Nonpharmacologic approaches have enormous potential as a means to reduce blood pressure and control hypertension, thereby preventing the occurrence of ASCVD. The current challenge to health care providers, government officials, and the general public is to develop and implement effective clinical and public health strategies that lead to desirable lifestyle modifications.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / diet therapy*
  • Hypertension / physiopathology
  • Life Style*
  • Potassium
  • Weight Loss


  • Potassium