High blood pressure is one of the most common diseases diagnosed in adults at any age. Almost one in three people have this condition which can shorten lifespan if left untreated. Hypertension runs in families, so people who have a parent with the disease are more likely to get it themselves. Naturally, a person at high risk for high blood pressure would like to reduce the chances that they’ll get this disease. One way to keep the heart healthy is to do regular aerobic exercise. Does physical activity reduce the risk of having high blood pressure too?
Does Physical Activity Reduce the Risk of Developing Hypertension?
A new study known as the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study sought to answer this question. 4,618 young men and women were followed for twenty years after their level of physical activity and fitness levels were determined using treadmill testing. The results? Men and women who engaged in the most physical activity and who were at the highest level of fitness had a lower risk of developing hypertension compared to their inactive peers.
Not all exercise was equally protective in this group of participants. The men and women with the lowest risk of having high blood pressure were the most fit. According to this study, to reduce the risk of high blood pressure requires moderate to vigorous physical activity – and a relatively high level of fitness. A daily walk in the park may not be enough.
Physical Activity and the Risk of Having High Blood Pressure
More intense exercise could reduce the risk of hypertension in a variety of ways. Not only does it reduce resistance in the arteries and allow the heart to pump more efficiently, it also reduces stress and helps to prevent obesity – another risk factor for high blood pressure. It also lowers the risk of metabolic syndrome by increasing insulin sensitivity. For people willing to do it, vigorous exercise has multiple health benefits for the heart and blood vessels.
Researchers in this study say future research is needed to determine how much and how hard a person needs to exercise to reduce the risk of developing hypertension, but the earlier one becomes active the better. For people with a strong family history of hypertension there are no guarantees, but exercise could help to at least delay the onset of hypertension – and make it easier to control it if develops.
The Bottom Line?
Make exercise a priority – especially if you’re worried about hypertension. It could keep you off of blood pressure medications ‘” and even save your life.