Boost exercise to lower blood pressure
Increasing your level of physical fitness could decrease your chances for high blood pressure. That’s the message from a recent study in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
The study looked at data from patients in the Henry Ford Exercise Testing Project who underwent physician-referred treadmill stress testing in the Detroit area between 1991 and 2009. More specifically, the researchers reviewed data from 35,175 patients with hypertension and 22,109 patients without hypertension, also known as high blood pressure.
The researchers found the patients who were more physically fit were less likely to have high blood pressure. And among the patients without hypertension, increased fitness demonstrated a strong inverse relationship with high blood pressure. This was the case even after the researchers took age, gender, race, obesity, resting blood pressure and diabetes into account.
The findings add compelling evidence in support of a role for fitness and regular exercise in the prevention of hypertension regardless of age, sex or race, the researchers wrote.
“Greater fitness is not only associated with a lower probability of having hypertension, but moreover it is associated with a lower risk of developing hypertension in the future,” the authors of the study concluded. “These findings provide additional support for fitness in the prevention of hypertension, even in individuals at increased risk for cardiovascular disease.”
The findings come as no surprise to Mary Ann Majewski, charge nurse of the cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation programs at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill. She says it is important for people to understand the connection between physical fitness and reduced risk for high blood pressure because hypertension is an important risk factor for cardiovascular events.
“To improve overall cardiovascular health, the American Heart Association suggests exercising most days of the week for 30 to 60 minutes,” Majewski says, adding that the exercise should be aerobic. “Aerobic exercise is a continuous exercise that involves large muscle groups in a rhythmic or dynamic nature. This type of exercise helps train the heart muscle and blood vessels, which helps the lungs take in more oxygen.”
Aerobic exercises include walking, jogging, swimming and biking. Majewski recommends they be done at a moderate to brisk pace.
Health care experts have good reason to be concerned about the effort to reduce high blood pressure. In the United States, hypertension affects one in three adults, yet many don’t even know they have it. The heart association reports that 78 million people in US have been diagnosed with it. It is among the most commonly diagnosed medical conditions in the country.
Possible health consequences that can happen over time when high blood pressure is left untreated include damage to the heart and coronary arteries. This can result in heart attack, heart disease or congestive heart failure. Other potential health consequences from untreated hypertension include stroke, kidney damage, and loss of vision.
As for blood pressure, normal is when the top number in a reading is less than 120 and the bottom number is less than 80. The top number measures pressure when the heart muscle contracts and the bottom number measures pressure when the heart relaxes between beats. Blood pressure is considered high when it’s greater than 140/90, the heart association says.
About the Author
Kathleen Troher, health enews contributor, is manager of public affairs and marketing at Advocate Good Sheperd Hospital in Barrington. She has more than 20 years of journalism experience, with her primary focus in the newspaper and magazine industry. Kathleen graduated from Columbia College in Chicago, earning her degree in journalism with an emphasis on science writing and broadcasting. She loves to travel with her husband, Ross. They share their home with a sweet Samoyed named Maggie.