Stress management and relaxation interventions for the management of hypertension and pre-hypertension

Project details:

In September 2023, NIHR asked Bristol ESG to undertake a systematic review and network meta-analysis of the evidence for stress management and relaxation interventions for people with high blood pressure (hypertension), or those at risk of developing high blood pressure (people with pre-hypertension).

The review is funded by the NIHR Evidence Synthesis Programme (project number: NIHR161214) and is registered with PROSPERO (CRD42023469128).

Project status: ongoing

Plain Language Summary:

High blood pressure (or “hypertension”) is a common condition that affects around 1 in 3 adults worldwide. It is known to be a risk factor for many serious diseases, including heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease and dementia. Lowering blood pressure helps reduce the risk of these diseases. Therefore, it is important that people with high blood pressure are offered advice or treatment to help lower their blood pressure.

 Standard treatment for high blood pressure includes taking tablets. However, there are also a lot of ways to reduce blood pressure that do not involve taking medicines. These include things like weight loss, reducing the amount of salt consumed, changing your diet (such as eating more fruit and vegetables), stopping smoking or reducing alcohol intake. In some countries, people who have raised blood pressure over a long period of time may be told they are at risk of developing hypertension. This is often called ‘pre-hypertension’.

Blood pressure has often been linked to stress levels, and many people think that reducing stress can help to lower blood pressure. There are many ways to tackle stress, but some examples are meditation, yoga, mindfulness, and tai chi. At present it is unclear which, if any, of the different approaches to managing stress work to reduce blood pressure in people diagnosed with hypertension or pre-hypertension.

We will bring together the available evidence on stress reduction and relaxation therapies for people with high blood pressure, and for people at risk of developing high blood pressure. We will compare the different types of stress reduction methods and relaxation therapies to see if any of these are able to lower blood pressure, and to identify which are the best approaches.