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Impact of dietary and lifestyle factors on the prevalence of hypertension in Western populations


The impact of dietary and lifestyle factors on the prevalence of hypertension was quantified for Finland, Italy, The Netherlands, UK and USA. For this purpose, we combined data of blood pressure (BP) and risk factors distributions in these five countries with BP estimates from randomized controlled trials of dietary and lifestyle factors to obtain population attributable risk percentages (PAR%) for hypertension. Overweight made a substantial contribution to hypertension (PAR%: 11–17%), as was the case for excessive sodium intake (9–17%), low potassium intake (4–17%), physical inactivity (5–13%), and low intake of fish oil (3–16%). PAR% were smaller for low calcium intake (2–8%), low magnesium intake (4–8%), excessive coffee consumption (1–9%) and excessive alcohol intake (2–3%). We conclude that diet and lifestyle have a major impact on hypertension in Western societies. The relative significance of different risk factors varies among populations, which is important for preventive strategies.

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This work was commissioned by the Factors Affecting Hypertension Task Force of the European branch of the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI Europe). At the time of the workshop, industry members of this task force were Frito Lay, Kellog, RHM Technology, Unilever and Valio. Further information about ILSI Europe can be obtained through or tel. +32 (0) 2 771 0014.

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Correspondence to J M Geleijnse.

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The full version of this paper has previously been published in European Journal of Public Health 2004;14:235-9.

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Geleijnse, J., Grobbee, D. & Kok, F. Impact of dietary and lifestyle factors on the prevalence of hypertension in Western populations. J Hum Hypertens 19, S1–S4 (2005).

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  • population attributable risk
  • dietary and lifestyle factors
  • prevention

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