Exercising Away Hypertension Risk

Exercise reduces high blood pressure risk for patients with family history

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(RxWiki News) For individuals with a family history of high blood pressure, moderate exercise and improved cardiovascular fitness may help even out the playing field.

Those who have parents with hypertension can reduce their risk of developing it by 34 percent if they engage in a moderate amount of physical activity as compared to individuals with a low fitness level.

"Incorporate exercise into your routine to benefit your blood pressure."

Robin P. Shook, MS, study lead author and a doctoral graduate student in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina, said that the findings send a practical message that moderate exercise such as brisk walking for 150 minutes a week provides a huge health benefit to individuals predisposed to developing hypertension because of their family history.

Previous research has suggested that family history affects up to 65 percent of an individual's risk for developing high blood pressure and the age of onset.

During the study researchers followed 6,278 mostly white participants of the Cooper Clinic between the ages of 20 and 80 for nearly five years. About a third of the patients reported they had a parent with high blood pressure.

At the beginning of the study the participants were healthy and none had hypertension. Each had an exercise test score of at least 85 percent of their age-predicted maximal heart rate. During the course of the study, 1,545 developed hypertension.

Investigators found that when individuals with and without a family history of hypertension were combined, high levels of physical activity was associated with a 42 percent lower risk of developing high blood pressure. Moderate fitness was linked to a 26 percent reduced risk.

Participants with a high level of fitness with a family history of hypertension were at only a 16 percent increased risk of developing high blood pressure compared to fit individuals without a parent with hypertension. However, those that engaged in a low level of physical activity and had a family history were at a 70 percent increased risk of developing hypertension.

“The correlation between fitness levels, parental history and risk are impossible to ignore,” Shook said. “This awareness can serve the clinician and the patient, as they work together to find effective and reasonable ways to avoid the diseases that have affected their family members — in some cases, for generations.”

The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health and an unrestricted research grant from The Coca-Cola Company, was recently published in the American Heart Association’s journal Hypertension.

Last Updated:
July 26, 2012