Fitness Can Reduce Hypertension Risk

New research is giving many people a way to counter their genetic likelihood of developing high blood pressure.

Moderate exercise and increased cardiovascular fitness can significantly cut a person’s risk, according to a study published in the American Heart Association’s journal Hypertension.

Researchers found that people who had a parent with high blood pressure but were extremely fit had a 34 percent lower risk of developing high blood pressure compared to those who had similar family history but didn’t work out, a news release from the AHA states.

“Understanding the roles that family history and fitness play in chronic diseases is critically important,” said lead author Robin P. Shook, a doctoral graduate student in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. “The results of this study send a very practical message, which is that even a very realistic, moderate amount of exercise – which we define as brisk walking for 150 minutes per week – can provide a huge health benefit, particularly to people predisposed to hypertension because of their family history.”

More than 6,000 people participated in the study, according to the news release. Other study highlights include the following:

  • Study participants, including those with and without a family history of high blood pressure, that performed a high level of fitness had a 42 percent lower risk of developing hypertension. Those who reported a moderate level of fitness had a 26 percent reduced risk.
  • Those who had a family history of high blood pressure and a low fitness level had a 70 percent higher risk of developing hypertension.
  • For those who had a family history but maintained a high level of fitness, their risk of developing hypertension was 16 percent higher compared to people who were fit and had no parental history.

“The correlation between fitness levels, parental history, and risk are impossible to ignore,” Shook said in the news release. “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.”

Source: American Heart Association news release

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