Purpose: To quantify effectiveness of lifestyle interventions for hypertension.
Data sources: Electronic bibliographic databases from 1998 onwards, existing guidelines, systematic reviews.
Study selection and data abstraction: We included randomized, controlled trials with at least 8 weeks' follow-up, comparing lifestyle with control interventions, enrolling adults with blood pressure at least 140/85 mmHg. Primary outcome measures were systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Two independent reviewers selected trials and abstracted data; differences were resolved by discussion.
Results: We categorized trials by type of intervention and used random effects meta-analysis to combine mean differences between endpoint blood pressure in treatment and control groups in 105 trials randomizing 6805 participants. Robust statistically significant effects were found for improved diet, aerobic exercise, alcohol and sodium restriction, and fish oil supplements: mean reductions in systolic blood pressure of 5.0 mmHg [95% confidence interval (CI): 3.1-7.0], 4.6 mmHg (95% CI: 2.0-7.1), 3.8 mmHg (95% CI: 1.4-6.1), 3.6 mmHg (95% CI: 2.5-4.6) and 2.3 mmHg (95% CI: 0.2-4.3), respectively, with corresponding reductions in diastolic blood pressure. Relaxation significantly reduced blood pressure only when compared with non-intervention controls. We found no robust evidence of any important effect on blood pressure of potassium, magnesium or calcium supplements.
Conclusions: Patients with elevated blood pressure should follow a weight-reducing diet, take regular exercise, and restrict alcohol and salt intake. Available evidence does not support relaxation therapies, calcium, magnesium or potassium supplements to reduce blood pressure.