Possibly a sign of the times and the increasing rise in technology—and being infinitely more convenient and efficient—patients are beginning to seek lifestyle counseling online and are seeing real tangible health improvements, according to a new study aimed at blood pressure management. Participants of the online-oriented study were able to lower their blood pressure as much as they would have if they were on medication alone.
The study in question involved 264 people with hypertension (high blood pressure) and had an average age of 58. The average blood pressure at the beginning of the study was around 140/90 mmHg, which is clinically referred to as stage 1 hypertension. Most of the participants, however, were already on at least one medication to reduce blood pressure before the start of the online study.
The study consisted of patients who had enrolled through the Heart and Stroke Association of Canada and were randomly assigned to either an e-counseling group or control group. For a year, both groups would receive emails during the trial, first weekly, then monthly.
Those in the e-counseling group were “provided links to online multimedia and interactive tools to increase motivation and skills to begin and sustain a heart-healthy lifestyle,” the study said. “These included video clips featuring characters discussing their own high blood pressure diagnosis and efforts to make lifestyle changes, as well as tools for tracking diet and level of physical activity.”
The control group, however, received only generic information about heart healthy living.
Once the study had concluded, researchers discovered that the engaging online content seemed to have an effect on patients in that group, reducing their systolic blood pressure by 10mmHg. Compared to the control group that was provided with more generic information about heart health, who saw only a 6mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure. The study showed statistically significant difference in favor of the more multimedia oriented part of the study.
“The electronic counseling intervention had an effect similar to that of adding an additional blood-pressure-lowering medication,” said lead study author Robert Nolan, associate professor at the University of Toronto. “We think this lifestyle counseling intervention can complement and optimize the effectiveness of medical therapy to reduce high blood pressure.”