Eating Out Raises Odds of High Blood Pressure: Study

April 13, 2015 Updated: July 18, 2015

A new study has linked meals eaten away from home and high blood pressure, finding that dining out just once a week raises the odds of pre-hypertension by 6 percent.

Hypertension, the medical term for high blood pressure, affects approximately one in three adults in the United States, but often goes undetected because it’s difficult to tell when one has it.

Hypertension is associated with eating a lot of salt and having too much excess body fat, while eating a healthy diet can prevent or manage hypertension in many people.

The new study by the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore tracked 501 adults aged 18 to 40 years in Singapore, collecting data on blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), and lifestyle, including meals eaten away from home.

The team of researchers found that people who had pre-hypertension or hypertension were more likely to eat meals away from home, have a higher BMI, exercise less, and smoke.

The highlighted finding in the study was the finding that eating just one extra meal out per week raised the odds of pre-hypertension by 6 percent. 

“While there have been studies conducted in the United States and Japan to find behaviors associated with hypertension, very few have surveyed a Southeast Asian population,” said Dr. Tazeen Jafar, a professor in the Health Services and Systems Programme at Duke–NUS, in a statement.

“Our research plugs that gap and highlights lifestyle factors associated with pre-hypertension and hypertension that are potentially modifiable, and would be applicable to young adults globally, especially those of Asian descent.”

The American Heart Association recommends when eating out, people should not be shy about making special requests such as lower fat ingredients and less salt. Other measures include sharing an entree with a companion, having sauces served on the side, and eating fruit or sherbet for dessert. The National Institutes of Health DASH eating plan, which aims to prevent high blood pressure, emphasizes the consumption of vegetables, fruits, fat-free, and low-fat dairy products.

The DUKE–NUS team said that the data from the study can be used in future studies examining how hypertension can be prevented among at-risk populations. The team plans to conduct a related study in Singapore. 

Duke–NUS submitted the study to the American Journal of Hypertension, which recently published the study. 

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