Magazine article Science News

Getting the Drop on Blood Pressure

Magazine article Science News

Getting the Drop on Blood Pressure

Article excerpt

Getting the drop on blood pressure

Several recent studies have suggestedthat muscle-relaxation training and biofeedback techniques that promote relaxation reduce the blood pressures of some hypertensives. But scientists at SRI International, a nonprofit research organization in Menlo Park, Calif., now report that there is a simpler alternative for newly diagnosed mild hypertensives: no relaxation training, no medication, just regular blood pressure monitoring for at least one year.

"We were surprised by the results,"says project director Margaret A. Chesney. "It appears that before physicians make decisions about medications or other treatments for mild hypertensives, the first step might be systematic blood pressure monitoring."

The researchers recruited unmedicatedpersons with mild hypertension, whose diastolic blood pressure (when the heart expands) ranged from 90 to 104 mm Hg, from two large companies near San Francisco. They randomly assigned 40 mild hypertensives to blood pressure monitoring every nine weeks at both a company medical clinic and each participat's worksite. Another 118 hypertensives received 13 weekly instruction sessions in a behavioral treatment, either muscle-relaxation procedures alone or in combination with biofeedback measures of muscle relaxation, "cognitive restructuring" aimed at identifying stressful situations and thoughts, and advice on exercise and dietary changes.

In company clinics, significant bloodpressure reductions for both behavioral treatment and monitoring groups appeared after 18 weeks, report Chesney and her co-workers in the May/June PSYCHOSOMATIC MEDICINE. Systolic blood pressure (when the heart contracts) fell an average of 7.4 mm Hg for those receiving behavioral treatment and 9.0 mm Hg for subjects being monitored. Diastolic blood pressure declined an average of 4.5 mm Hg for the former group and 5. …

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