Diet plays a crucial role in controlling blood pressure. A recent study revealed that those who consistently follow a Mediterranean diet are at a reduced risk of hypertension.

The latest findings were made by a team of researchers from the School of Health Sciences and Education at Harokopio University of Athens, Greece, after following up on data of 20 years. The results were published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Hypertension is a condition that causes the blood to push against the artery walls at a high force, making the heart work hard. Having a blood pressure reading of 130/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or higher is considered to be high.

Lack of physical activity, obesity, excess salt consumption, tobacco use, and family history are some of the known risk factors. Hypertension affects about 30% of adults and raises the risk of conditions such as heart attacks and strokes.

The Mediterranean diet refers to the traditional dietary pattern of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea that focuses on consuming more vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, healthy oils, and moderate amounts of fish and seafood.

To know more about the benefits of following the Mediterranean diet, researchers of the latest study evaluated 3,042 participants who did not have hypertension at the start of the study in 2002. The participants also did not have any cardiovascular disease and were interviewed to understand their dietary and lifestyle habits. Their glucose, cholesterol levels, body weight, and blood pressure were also evaluated.

To assess how well participants followed different aspects of the Mediterranean diet throughout the follow-up period, they were given a MedDietScore. Higher scores reflected greater adherence to the diet. Also, points were deducted for consuming foods or food groups considered "non-Mediterranean," such as full-fat dairy products, poultry, and red meat.

The researchers also followed up with the participants for other aspects such as the development of hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

At the end of the study, participants in the group with the lowest MedDietScore, indicating poorer adherence to the Mediterranean diet, had a hypertension rate of 35.5%. The middle group had a hypertension rate of 22.5%. In contrast, the group with the highest MedDietScore, reflecting better adherence to the Mediterranean diet, had a hypertension incidence rate of 8.7%.

"A high adherence to the Mediterranean diet, particularly when longitudinally sustained, is associated with lower incidence of hypertension," the researchers wrote.