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Study: Diet, Exercise Lower Blood Pressure as Well as Meds

June 11 (UPI) -- By modifying their lifestyle, including diet and exercise, people can lower their blood pressure just as effectively as with medication, according to a study.

Researchers studied the effects of adapting the Newstart Lifestyle program, which includes a vegan diet, daily outside walks, substantial quantities of water, adequate daily sleep and optional spiritual activities. The findings will be presented Monday at the American Society for Nutrition's annual meeting, Nutrition 2018, in Boston.

"The Newstart Lifestyle program works quickly, is inexpensive and uses a palatable diet that allows for moderate amounts of salt and healthy fats from nuts, olives, avocado and certain vegetable oils," M. Alfredo Mejia, an associate professor at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Mich., said in a press release.

After adapting the diet, researchers found half of the people in the study achieved normal blood pressure --- the recommended 120 mmHg -- within two weeks. And they avoided the side effects and costs of blood pressure medications -- despite lowering their blood pressure on average 14 percent.

Researchers evaluated data from 117 people with high blood pressure who had participated in the Newstart Lifestyle program at the Weimer Institute in California for 16 days in 2014. Their average age was 66.5 years old with a body mass index of 31.6 and blood pressure of 138 mmHg.

Blood pressure was lower in people who have several medical conditions but are healthy otherwise -- women and people with diabetes, who are obese or have high cholesterol levels.

The researchers plan to expand studies of the program to more people, and over a longer time period. They also want to see if the diet improves other health problems, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity.

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