Growing numbers of people are turning to alternative approaches to complement or reduce the use of medication for controlling blood pressure. To guide physicians on the variety of complementary therapies, the American Heart Association has issued a scientific statement entitled “Beyond Medications and Diet: Alternative Approaches to Lowering Blood Pressure,” available in the AHA’s journal Hypertension (2013; 61 , 1360–83; doi: 10.1161/HYP.0b013e318293645f).
The statement supports using alternative methods to complement—but not to replace—standard care for people with blood pressure levels higher than 120/80 mm Hg and for those who cannot tolerate or don’t respond well to usual drugs.
Therapies were divided into three categories: behavioral therapies; noninvasive procedures or devices; and exercise-based guidelines. Statement authors summarized existing scientific evidence based on a review of 1,000 studies.
Of most interest to mind-body movement professionals is the category of behavior therapies, which included meditation, yoga, relaxation therapies and biofeedback. The AHA authors found that transcendental meditation modestly reduces high blood pressure. However, they stopped short of recommending yoga and other methods for clinical use, citing the need for further research. The statement also mentioned device-guided breathing and exercise-based regimens as effective alternative methods for reducing blood pressure.
“There aren’t many large well-designed studies lasting longer than a few weeks looking at alternative therapies, yet patients have a lot of questions about their value,” said Robert D. Brook, MD, chair of the expert panel that wrote the statement and associate professor of medicine at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, in an AHA press release. “A common request from patients is, ‘I don’t like to take medications, [so] what can I do to lower my blood pressure?’ We wanted to provide some direction.”
To read the statement, go to http://hyper.ahajournals.org/content/61/6/1360.