Support Yields Lower Systolic Blood Pressure

Systolic blood pressure lowered with emotional support and patient education

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Medication is not the only way to improve health. Behavioral support from patient education and peer monitoring is good for the mind and the body.

New research revealed benefits from peer support and healthcare staff interventions for systolic blood pressure.

At-risk groups can be paired with well-controlled patients who offer emotional support for a cost-effective way to lower systolic blood pressure.

"Ask your doctor about patient support programs."

Dr. Barbara J. Turner, MD, from the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio and University Health System, led a study to look into the medical benefits from behavioral support on high blood pressure in patients.

For the study, researchers selected 280 African-Americans from ages 40-75 with ‘uncontrolled hypertension’, meaning that increases in medication were not lowering the patients’ blood pressure. Each participant was contacted three times a month via phone for a chat with peers that had well-controlled high blood pressure and every other month, they were visited in person by a health care professional to discuss risk factors and lifestyle changes.

According to Dr. Turner, “These patients had previously failed to have their blood pressure controlled despite physicians continuing to intensify their medications, so we decided that adding more medicine just wasn’t going to work. You start to think, ‘what other things could I do for this person rather than just pills’?”

The peers acted like coaches, talking to the at-risk patients about healthy choices and taking their medications.

The healthcare professions were comprised of a chronic disease educator, a nurse and a medical assistant. The patients also regularly attended doctor visits.

There was also an online component where patients were given visual materials about heart attacks and coronary heart disease. Dr. Turner said. “We could show that the risk could be reduced, sometimes by a lot, by making a positive change.”

Of the 280 participants, 136 needed intervention and 144 were used as controls. Overall the systolic pressure of the intervention group was lowered by 7.2 mmHg (millimeters of mercury) vs. 0.8 mmHg in the control group.

Researchers compare their results to successful studies on the role of behavioral interventions and support from peers and medical staff for diabetic patients as well.

This study was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, May 2012. The study was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. No conflicts of interest were found.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 23, 2012
Last Updated:
August 2, 2012