Could your levels of physical activity and fitness as a young adult affect your risk of developing high blood pressure later in life?
To answer that question, 4,618 men and women between 18 and 30 years old were recruited for a long-term study of cardiovascular disease risk factors. Study volunteers completed a treadmill test and a physical activity questionnaire when the study began. In addition, their overall health was assessed at six follow-up appointments over 20 years.
Just over 1,000 people in the study developed high blood pressure, which was defined as having blood pressure that's higher than 140/80 mm Hg or having been prescribed high blood pressure medication.
Even after adjusting for other known heart disease and high blood pressure risk factors -- such as smoking, age, race, sex, cholesterol and diet -- the researchers found that lower levels of physical activity and fitness were associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure.
Young adults who don't get enough physical and aerobic exercise increase their risk of having high blood pressure later in life. This study, published in the journal ‘Hypertension', found that about one-third of all high blood pressure cases could be prevented with increased physical fitness.
There is a difference in measuring aerobic fitness and physical activity. Physical activity is a behavior, while aerobic fitness is a physiological measure that reflects a combination of physical activity, genetic potential and functional health of various organs.
The study confirms earlier research pointing to a link between fitness and hypertension. High blood pressure is known to develop over a long period of time and is due to a combination of factors that includes genetics, diet, and health behaviors.
Hypertension is largely controllable or reversible. The good news is that there's no point at which you cannot benefit from increased activity. But, it's better to start younger because people who are active in their youth are more likely to stay active as adults.