High blood pressure: Lifestyle changes to reduce reading
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New research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association suggests three grams of omega-3 fatty acids every day is the ‘optimal’ dose for lowering blood pressure. These acids – acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) – are typically found in fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, sardines, trout, herring and oysters. Study author and assistant university professor Xinzhi Li said: “According to our research, the average adult may have a modest blood pressure reduction from consuming about three grams a day of these fatty acids.”
As part of the study, researchers analysed results from 71 clinical trials worldwide, for which 5,000 people took part, between 1987 to 2020.
Within the trials participants, aged from 22 to 86, took dietary and/or prescription supplement sources of fatty acids for an average of 10 weeks.
The analysis found those who consumed between two and three grams daily of combined DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids – in supplements, food or both – had reduced systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure by an average two millimetres of mercury (mmHg).
It also showed three grams a day reduced systolic blood pressure (SPB) by 4.5mmHg for those with high blood pressure – otherwise known as hypertension – but by two mmHg for those without.
However, five grams of omega-3 acids a day reduced SBP by just four mmHg for people with hypertension and less than one mmHg for those without.
The study found similar results for people with high cholesterol as well.
“Our study supports the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) guidance that EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by lowering high blood pressure, especially among people already diagnosed with hypertension,” Dr Li said.
Around 110 to 140 grams of Atlantic salmon provides three grams of omega-3 fatty acids.
While a typical fish oil supplement contains about 300 mg of omega-3s per pill, but doses vary widely.
Dr Li added: “Most of the studies reported on fish oil supplements rather than on EPA and DHA omega-3’s consumed in food, which suggests supplements may be an alternative for those who cannot eat fatty fish such as salmon regularly.
“Algae supplements with EPA and DHA fatty acids are also an option for people who do not consume fish or other animal products.”
It comes as the FDA had previously said it did not object to the use of certain health claims that consuming EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids in food or dietary supplements may reduce the risk of hypertension and coronary heart disease.
But the department noted that the evidence in this research was “inconclusive and highly inconsistent”.
This was due to the fact the review did not include differences in how blood pressure was measured, and whether the studies examined omega-3 intake from supplements or diet, which may affect the strength of the conclusions.
Dr Li explained: “However, while our study may add a layer of credible evidence, it does not meet the threshold to make an authorised health claim for omega-3 fatty acids in compliance with FDA regulations.”
The NHS recommends several lifestyle changes to prevent and lower high blood pressure.
- reduce the amount of salt you eat and have a generally healthy diet
- cut back on alcohol
- lose weight if you’re overweight
- exercise regularly
- cut down on caffeine
- stop smoking
And the British Dietetic Association suggests eating at least one portion of oily fish a week to reduce blood pressure.
It says: “Include at least one portion of these dark fleshed fish per week. They are rich in omega-3 fatty acids which have been shown to have some effect on reducing blood pressure.
“Examples include salmon, pilchards, sardines, mackerel, herring and trout.”
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