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Aug 09, 2011

Protein Intake and Blood Pressure Reduction

Eating more protein may help lower systolic blood pressure.

High blood pressure, known as hypertension, affects millions of Americans and is the number one risk factor for stroke. Fortunately, once diagnosed, hypertension is easily treatable, and patients can significantly lower blood pressure with simple lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise. Not only should adults with hypertension exercise regularly, they should also switch to a heart-healthy diet, rich in potassium and fiber, while low in sodium. However, increasing protein intake may soon be added to this list, as it may be another tool to help patients lower their blood pressure.

A recent study published in Circulation reported that increasing protein intake may actually help lower systolic blood pressure by more than 2 mmHg in comparison with intake of carbohydrates. In this clinical trial, over 350 participants with high blood pressure consumed either soy protein, milk protein or carbohydrate supplementation for eight weeks at a time. Although the effect of protein on diastolic blood pressure (bottom number) was not considered statistically significant, protein did have a significant impact on systolic blood pressure (top number), helping to lower systolic blood pressure by 2–2.3 mmHg. For some, this change could mean the difference between maintaining a healthy systolic blood pressure level and having high blood pressure.

Based on study findings, increased protein intake may be recommended to patients with hypertension to help reduce blood pressure levels. This may mean simply increasing protein intake or partially replacing simple carbohydrates, such as white bread, with soy or milk protein. As there was no difference in the blood pressure reduction achieved between soy and milk protein in this study, both of these types of proteins, and perhaps the addition of others, may be yet another way that patients can effectively manage blood pressure levels through dietary changes.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is a healthy blood pressure?

  • For adults, a healthy blood pressure is less than 120/80 mmHg. Blood pressure is considered elevated between 120–139 mmHg systolic (top number) or between 80–89 mmHg diastolic. Chronic high blood pressure, known as hypertension, occurs when systolic blood pressure is more than 140 mmHg or the diastolic systolic blood pressure is more than 90 mmHg.
  • Who is at risk for high blood pressure?
  • Risk for hypertension increases with age, and most adults will eventually be affected by this condition at some time in their lives. However, diabetes, obesity, stress, high sodium intake, tobacco use and excessive alcohol use can greatly increase risk for high blood pressure.


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