Tags: support | blood | pressure | hypertension

Peer Support Drops Blood Pressure

Wednesday, 23 May 2012 11:29 AM

Moral support is more than just a feel-good experience. New research has found encouragement, coaching and support from peers and primary care clinicians helped patients reduce their blood pressure as much as starting a new hypertension drug.

The study, conducted by the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, examined the benefits of six months of intervention — behavioral support from peers and primary care office staff — on African-American patients who were unable to control their blood pressure despite one to two years of prescription drugs and office visits.
"These patients had previously failed to have their blood pressure controlled despite physicians continuing to intensity their medications, so we decided that adding more medicine just wasn't going to work," said lead researcher Dr. Barbara J. Turner. "You start to think, what other things could I do for this person rather than just pills?"
For the study, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, researchers tracked the effects of the program on the patients’ ability to control their systolic pressure -- the force of the blood against vessels as the heart contracts.
They found patients in the support group experienced a drop in systolic pressure that was six times greater than in patients who did not receive any help. Those in the support group also slightly reduced their heart disease risk.
For the peer support intervention, the team trained African-American patients from the same practices as the study participants, who were an average age of 62 years. The peer coaches were 50 or older and had high blood pressure that was well-controlled. The coaches spoke on the phone with study participants several times over the course of the study about their condition and why taking medications and healthier lifestyles were important for their health.
"Interestingly, the lead peer coach was an 85-year-old former wedding planner," Turner said. "She was incredible. The best peer coaches were grateful to their doctors for helping them. They wanted to pay back their so-called debt to the doctor and thought this was a way to do it."
Three African-American staff members also coached the patients on choosing healthy foods and why the danger of stroke and heart attack requires taking blood pressure medication daily.
The study was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

© HealthDay

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Coaching and encouragement help patients reduce their blood pressure as much as starting a new drug.
Wednesday, 23 May 2012 11:29 AM
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