For people with elevated blood pressure, there’s a wide variety of drugs and medical devices that can help bring blood pressure to a safer level.Despite this wide range of available medical interventions — many of which are costly or carry side effects — there’s a much simpler way to bring blood pressure down.It’s called the NEWSTART Lifestyle program, developed by a team led by M. Alfredo Mejia, an associate professor in the Department of Public Health, Nutrition & Wellness at Andrews University in Michigan.Mejia presented his findings this month at the American Society for Nutrition’s annual meeting in Boston.

The program revolves around following a vegan diet with primarily plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, seeds, and nuts.

In addition to the diet, participants get regular exercise, drink adequate amounts of water, and get a good night’s sleep.

In Mejia’s study, 117 people with high blood pressure participated in the program for 14 days.

By the end of this period, half of the participants had lowered their blood pressure to a recommended level while other participants also attained lower blood pressure.

These results are equivalent to the effects of standard blood pressure medications. In all, 93 percent of the participants were able to reduce their dose or eliminate medications entirely.

While it requires a substantial amount of willpower, making lifestyle changes should always be first and foremost for people who want to lower their blood pressure, according to an expert interviewed by Healthline.

Results not surprising

Dr. Andrew Freeman, a cardiologist at National Jewish Health in Colorado, says the findings make plenty of sense.

“Exercise, particularly cardio and aerobic exercise, has been known to be a potent dropper of blood pressure for a long time, and we know that fruits and vegetables rich in potassium and naturally occurring nitrates can actually lower blood pressure as effectively as many of the medications,” he said. “So that, to me, is no surprise. It’s nice that they put it all together in this study.”

Freeman says that for many patients, the prospect of taking a simple medication is seen as easier and more appealing than undergoing lifestyle changes.

But even for patients who are prescribed medications for high blood pressure, lifestyle will always be a factor.

“If you look at the latest blood pressure guidelines, no matter what you do, lifestyle intervention is supposed to be part of the plan,” he explained. “So even if you use so-called standard Western medicine, lifestyle is still a factor. I want to make sure I underscore that because it’s something that’s often missed.”