Substituting Lifestyle Management for Pharmacological Control of Blood Pressure: A Pilot Study in Australian General Practice


Substituting Lifestyle Management for  Pharmacological Control of Blood Pressure:  A Pilot Study in Australian General Practice

Reid CM, Maher T, Jennings GL; Heart Project Steering Committee

Alfred and Baker Medical Unit,
Baker Medical Research Institute,
Melbourne, Australia.

The HEART project was conducted in general practice to determine whether lifestyle strategies, aimed at increasing physical activity and dietary modification, can be substituted for drug therapy in patients who have been well controlled on antihypertensive medication. In addition to blood pressure (BP) and risk factor outcomes, lifestyle behaviours, quality of life of patients, and the acceptability of the approach to both general practitioners (GPs) and patients involved in the trial were assessed. Patients (n = 45) with a history of hypertension and who had been well controlled for at least the past 6 months (BP < 160/ 95 mmHg) were randomised to a continued medication (C) group (n = 24) or a withdrawal (W) group (n = 21). Subjects had received antihypertensive therapy for an average of 7.8 years (range 1-28 years). Drug therapy in the W group was recommenced if BP exceeded 160/95 mmHg on two consecutive visits. Both groups were counselled regarding lifestyle behaviour change by their GP throughout the study and were provided with specifically developed self-help materials. Subjects were reviewed at least monthly over a 9-month period. Following randomisation, there were no significant differences between the two groups for BP, heart rate, age, duration of therapy, total cholesterol or body mass index. All but three subjects (one from the W and two from the C group) completed 9 months of monitoring following randomisation and there were no cardiovascular events; 71% of subjects remained off drug therapy and were well controlled at the 9-month follow-up (15/21) with mean BP of 141/85 mmHg (W) and 139/ 86 mmHg (C). Systolic BP tended to increase during the study period in both W and C groups, however, no significant differences were observed in mean systolic or diastolic BP either between the two groups or within each group in comparison to baseline values. Resting heart rate, body mass index and cholesterol levels remained unchanged in both W and C groups after 9 months follow-up. There were no changes attributable to the lifestyle intervention in the subjects continuing drug therapy in BP or lifestyle variables over the study period. However, the group stopping therapy had a 6% reduction in body mass index after 9 months. These data suggest that a proportion of motivated patients willing to trial a lifestyle approach can cease drug therapy and be adequately maintained by the prescription of lifestyle advice via their GP for at least a 9-month period. Cessation of drug therapy may be an important motivating factor to achieve weight loss in this group.