Public Release: 

New studies reveal Italian cheese, alcohol, and sleep impact blood pressure

New SPRINT research and international studies presented at the 31st Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Society of Hypertension provide insights into controlling blood pressure

Pollock Communications

New York, NY, May 13, 2016 - High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects one third of American adults, which translates to 70 million people.1 It is responsible directly or indirectly for more than 350,000 deaths--about 1,000 per day--annually in the U.S.1, 2 From May 13 - 17, 2016, recognized worldwide leaders in the medical community will gather in New York City for the 31st Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Society of Hypertension (ASH). Renowned experts will reveal novel findings about patient education, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of hypertension. Hundreds of studies will be presented that reveal breakthroughs and advances in research, including findings about napping and foods/beverages, that might help prevent or treat the disease known as the "silent killer."

Among the research presented at the ASH meeting is new data that challenges the current blood pressure threshold for maintaining a healthy heart. Other studies examine the roles that cheese and alcohol may have on blood pressure. In addition, there is now research that questions the popular assumption that napping will help lower blood pressure. Below are research highlights from the 2016 conference:

How Low Should You Go? Below 120 mmHg for a Healthy Heart

Several studies presented at the ASH meeting reveal new data from the landmark clinical trial sponsored by the National Institutes of Health called the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT). The research finds that people may be better off with a systolic blood pressure below 120 mmHg, rather than the typical 140 mmHg.

SPRINT was launched to determine whether maintaining blood pressure levels lower than current recommendations further reduces the risk of cardiovascular and kidney diseases, or age-related cognitive decline. New evidence from the large, multicenter randomized clinical trial finds that treating patients to reduce systolic blood pressure from 140 mmHg to 120 mmHg may help prevent cardiovascular disease.

"This is a pivotal moment in hypertensive care and preventative medicine," says Domenic Sica, M.D., ASH President and 2016 Scientific Program Committee Consultant. "Physicians have been telling patients to focus on reducing blood pressure to below 140 mmHg for decades. This important data reveals that for some, it may not be low enough for optimal health."

Italian Cheese Reduces Blood Pressure

A serving of Italian Grana Padano cheese can help lower blood pressure, according to researchers from Hypertension Unit of Guglielmo da Saliceto Hospital and Catholic University of Piacenza, Italy. Grana Padano, an Italian staple similar to Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, has been shown to have peptides (short chains of amino acids) that have strong angiotensin-converting-enzyme (ACE) inhibitor activity. These peptides provide similar blood vessel relaxation effects as the popular ACE inhibitor blood pressure prescriptions drugs, like benazepril (Lotensin) or captopril (Capoten).

In this randomized, cross-over, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 30 adults with hypertension (>140 mmHg and/or >90 mmHg) were provided with either an ounce per day of Grana Padano cheese or a placebo imitation cheese for two months. Blood pressure was monitored via health professionals in an in-office setting, as well as with automatic blood pressure monitors throughout the entire study. The results showed between a 7-8 mmHg drop in systolic blood pressure and a 5-7 mmHg drop in diastolic blood pressure, depending on in-office monitoring versus automated monitoring systems. No changes were seen in body mass index (BMI), blood lipids or blood sugar levels.

"The effects are similar to what you would expect with antihypertensive medications," said the study's lead author Giuseppe Crippa, M.D., of the Hypertension Unit of Guglielmo da Saliceto Hospital and Catholic University. "Adding a little Grana Padano to a healthy diet may provide clinically significant blood pressure lowering benefits."

Moderate Alcohol Consumption: Does it Help or Hinder Blood Pressure?

While moderate alcohol intake in healthy individuals may help lower blood pressure, a new study shows that for individuals with high blood pressure, it may worsen the condition. Researchers from the University of Udine in Italy set out to investigate the relationship between alcohol consumption and left ventricular function in hypertensive patients. Findings revealed that even moderate alcohol consumption is associated with more prominent left ventricular diastolic dysfunction in patients with elevated blood pressure.

Daytime ZZZs Increase Risk for Hypertension

It's generally thought that a daytime nap is considered restorative and good for your health, but that conventional wisdom has been challenged with hypertension research. Some studies have reported a decrease in blood pressure among midday nappers, while others show an increase. To help set the record straight, researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN conducted a meta-analysis that included data from nine observational studies with 112,267 participants. The results found that those seeking midday shut-eye had a 13-19 percent increase in risk for hypertension. However, when researchers looked at the data on the association between nighttime napping in individuals who work night-shifts and hypertension, results were limited. One observational study found that night-shift workers who napped at night showed reduced risk of hypertension by 21 percent. According to Wisit Cheungpasitporn, M.D., the lead researcher and nephrologist at the Mayo Clinic, more research is needed to better understand if the duration of midday sleep, or if diet, exercise, or an underlying medical condition, might be impacting risk.


About the American Society of Hypertension, Inc.

The American Society of Hypertension, Inc. (ASH) is the largest U.S. professional organization of scientific investigators and healthcare professionals committed to eliminating hypertension and its consequences. ASH is dedicated to promoting strategies to prevent hypertension and to improving the care of patients with hypertension and associated disorders. The specific focus of the Society is to translate current research findings on hypertension into effective treatment strategies, in order to better address the needs of hypertensive patients. For more information, please visit


1 Nwankwo T, Yoon SS, Burt V, Gu Q. Hypertension among adults in the US: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2011-2012. NCHS Data Brief, No. 133. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US Dept of Health and Human Services, 2013.

2 Mozzafarian D, Benjamin EJ, Go AS, et al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics-2015 Update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2015;e29-322.

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