High blood pressure? Get fit and live longer
If your blood pressure is so high that your doctor worries about your health, then a good fitness trainer can boost your survival chances considerably. And if you don't feel like doing that, then increasing the amount of exercise you get daily by cycling or walking will also work. Just as long as you get fitter, suggests an epidemiological study among about 5000 men over 60.
High blood pressure
Most people who have high blood pressure are not particularly worried about it, but nonetheless high blood pressure increases the chance of heart attacks, heart disorders, strokes, kidney damage and even blindness. That's why cardiologists regard high blood pressure as a 'silent killer'.
In 2009 Peter Kokkinos of Georgetown University published a study in which he had analysed data on 4631 soldiers who'd been relieved of their duties due to high blood pressure. The data had been gathered between 1983 and 2006.
Researchers had used an exertion test to measure the men's fitness. On the basis of the results Kokkinos divided the men into four groups: a very-low-fit group [5-7 METs], a low-fit group [5-7 METs], a moderately fit group [7-10 METs] and a fit group [>10 METs].
Kokkinos followed the average study participant for nearly eight years, and discovered that the fitter the men were, the much greater their survival chances were.
In the figure below Kokkinos divided the data further: he distinguished between men who only had high blood pressure and no other risk factors, and those who did have other risk factors, such as a heart problem.
The mortality risk of the fittest men was 3-4 times lower than that of the unfit men. In the group of men with extra risk factors the protective effect of a good condition was a little stronger than in the other group.
"Because higher exercise capacity is associated with a lower risk of mortality, physicians and other health care professionals should encourage hypertensive individuals to initiate and maintain a physically active lifestyle consisting of moderate intensity activities (brisk walking or similar activities)", concludes Kokkinos. "Such programs are likely to improve exercise capacity and lower the risk of mortality."
Hypertension. 2009 Mar;53(3):494-9.
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