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High blood pressure: Newest research explores prevention, treatment

pressure test September 17, 1998
Web posted at: 6:24 p.m. EDT (2224 GMT)

From Correspondent Louise Schiavone

PHILADELPHIA (CNN) -- Health experts meeting this week at the annual conference of the Council for High Blood Pressure Research say the latest studies offer new methods to prevent and even reverse high blood pressure, especially among those at risk.

Roughly 50 million Americans are plagued by high blood pressure, risking heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and eye damage.

Since African Americans are often prone to high blood pressure, Dawn Wilson focused on black teen-agers in her research.

"We were able to show in our group that there were 30 percent of healthy African-American teens who were already showing elevated night-time blood pressure," said Wilson, an associate professor of medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University.

She urged her sample group not to stop eating foods they enjoy, but to add potassium-rich foods, including fruits, nuts, vegetables and yogurt to their diets. Blood pressure dropped for those who did.

While the approach may help some people, doctors agree that in the general population, old habits die hard.

Latest research suggests eating more potassium-rich foods  

Specialists say patients tire of messages about healthy lifestyle changes and doctors tire of delivering messages that are ignored. But genetic research may help to alert those at risk to pay attention.

This new research shows a mutated gene can double the risk of stroke. If supported by further studies, this discovery could lead to new treatments and ultimately help avert strokes.

"The first thing you need to do is get your blood pressure under control, keep a healthy lifestyle in terms of some regular exercise; don't smoke," said Dr. Klaus Lindpaintner of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

Italian researchers have found that consuming vitamin C may also help by easing vessel constriction in high blood pressure patients.

Dr. Giuseppe Lembo of the University of Naples suggested a diet with more fruit, more vitamin C and possibly vitamin C supplements.

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