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Oct 03, 2014

Regular Exercise Keeps High Blood Pressure at Bay

Study finds that exercise could help delay the onset of high blood pressure.

Exercise could mean the difference between developing high blood pressure during your 50s vs. golden years, according to a study linking fitness to delayed onset of hypertension. 

Published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, this study assessed the relationship between fitness and the development of high blood pressure—a condition that affects roughly one-third of American adults. Although increased blood pressure is believed to be a natural part of the aging process, there is a wealth of evidence suggesting that simple choices we make like eating healthy and staying active can help prevent or, at the very least, delay increases in blood pressure. 

To test this theory, researchers followed almost 14,000 healthy men from 1970–2006 through the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study. After joining the study, participants completed a treadmill test to assess fitness—an important indicator of how active a person is—and attended regular check-ups to monitor health. 

During the 36-year study, researchers found that men tend to develop a high systolic blood pressure (the top number) at 50 years of age and a high diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) at 60 years of age. However, men with higher fitness levels developed abnormal blood pressure later than those considered less fit. 

Findings affirm the fact that regular exercise can help delay onset of high blood pressure, despite the body’s natural aging process. While it’s believed that most Americans will develop high blood pressure at some point in their lifetime, exercise has the potential to delay this serious condition. Known as the silent killer, high blood pressure increases risk for heart attack and stroke and has been linked to other chronic diseases, such as diabetes and kidney disease. If all it takes is regular exercise to delay serious conditions that can threaten good health, authors argue that adults should make every effort to improve their fitness level and protect heart health.
Read the full study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is fitness?
  • In general, fitness refers to being physically sound and healthy as a result of regular exercise. There are three kinds of fitness, including aerobic (strengthening the heart and lungs), muscle strengthening (building muscle) and flexibility (stretching the muscles). Finding a balance between the three to achieve the best possible fitness is important for good health.
  • What is hypertension?
  • Hypertension, often referred to as high blood pressure, occurs when the force of blood against the artery walls is too high. High blood pressure is often referred to as the “silent killer,” because it often causes no symptoms and if left uncontrolled, increases risk for heart attack and stroke.

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Hypertension is another way to say "high blood pressure." A patient has hypertension if their readings are above 140 over 90. With medication, the right diet, and a few lifestyle changes, however, hypertension can be managed.