AUGUST 01, 2006

Hold the Salt to Hold Down High BP

The American Medical Association (AMA) cited "overwhelming evidence" that excessive sodium intake is linked with high blood pressure (BP) and other coronary disease. It called for the lowering of sodium levels in processed foods and restaurant offerings by at least 50% over the next 10 years. The statement was made at the association's convention in Chicago, Ill, in June 2006. It also advocated more public education on the benefits of lowering salt intake in the diet and urged the FDA to revoke the "generally recognized as safe" status of salt, a move that could lead to warning labels being placed on high-sodium foods.

The group said that more than 95% of American men and 75% of American women aged 31 to 50 regularly consume more salt than the maximum recommended amount of less than a teaspoon a day, or about 2400 mg. Most of this intake comes from eating processed foods or meals prepared outside the home. The AMA concluded that "food manufacturers and restaurants should review their product lines and reduce sodium levels to the greatest extent possible, without increasing levels of other unhealthy ingredients."

Meditation May Help Hypertension

A placebo-controlled study conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles, suggested that transcendental meditation (TM) could improve blood pressure (BP) and insulin resistance in heart patients. TM involves mental concentration and physical relaxation through the use of a mantra, a repeated phrase or syllable. The study was published in the June 12, 2006, issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The researchers studied 84 patients with coronary artery disease who were randomly assigned to one of 2 groups: one group took a 16-week course on health education, and the other enrolled in a course on TM. Both groups remained on their regular hypertension treatments and under the care of their physicians. At the end of the study, those in the TM group had significantly lower BP levels, compared with the education group. They also showed improved measures of insulin resistance.

The researchers suggested that TM causes improvements in specific elements of the metabolic syndrome. "The good thing about meditation is that it has a very nice quality-of-life component," they said. "There's?a lot of data to demonstrate that it has a beneficial effect."

Campaign Promotes Patient-centered BP Treatment

A national hypertension management initiative was launched in the beginning of June 2006 to help promote interaction between patients and their health care providers and help patients take better control of their high blood pressure (BP). The initiative will focus on improving the quality of patient care by educating patients on using better diet, exercise, and medication to treat their hypertension. The campaign is sponsored by Daiichi Sankyo Inc, in conjunction with managed care organizations from across the country.

"It is imperative that health care providers and insurers collaborate to manage the risk factors for cardiovascular disease," a representative of Daiichi Sankyo said. "One of the key targets [in] addressing this?is controlling high BP. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that cardiovascular disease kills more than 900,000 Americans each year."

Health plans will help by identifying appropriate plan members and inviting them to participate in the campaign. Once they sign up, they will receive regular educational mailings and be directed to a Web site created by the Mayo Clinic to enhance the mailings.

Job Strain May Elevate BP

Constant job stress may be bad news for blood pressure (BP) readings, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health (August 2006). A study of >6719 white-collar workers followed for 7.5 years indicated that those with high job demands and low levels of social support in the office tended to have higher BP, compared with other workers.

The study also found that the relationship was stronger among men than women. As a group, men with more job strain had higher BP and faced more risk of BP increases over time, compared with less stressful work. "Our study supports the hypothesis that job strain, particularly in workers with low social support at work, may contribute to increased blood pressure," commented lead author Chantal Guimont, MD.

She said that results of the study support the idea that limiting job strain could make a difference in some workers' BP. For example, Dr. Guimont said employers might give workers more support or more say in how they complete tasks, loosen up deadline pressure, or offer more chances for learning and growth.