By Lars Hundley
A 29-year study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology has revealed that high fitness levels may reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular disease in men with high blood pressure. The study is the first of its kind to examine the joint effects of fitness and blood pressure on the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.
Study author Professor Jari Laukkanen of the University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, Finland, said, “The results suggest that being fit helps protect against some of the negative effects of high blood pressure.” Hypertension affects nearly 1.3 billion adults aged 30 to 79 years worldwide and is a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke.
The study included 2,280 men aged 42 to 61 years living in eastern Finland and enrolled in the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study. Participants were followed up until 2018, and during a median follow up of 29 years, there were 644 deaths due to cardiovascular disease.
Men with high blood pressure and low fitness had a more than doubled risk of cardiovascular death compared to those with normal blood pressure and high fitness. However, when men with high blood pressure had high fitness levels, their elevated risk of cardiovascular risk persisted but was weaker.
Professor Laukkanen concluded, “Getting blood pressure under control should remain a goal in those with elevated levels. Our study indicates that men with high blood pressure should also aim to improve their fitness levels with regular physical activity. In addition to habitual exercise, avoiding excess body weight may enhance fitness.”
The research highlights the importance of maintaining high fitness levels, especially for those with high blood pressure. By analyzing the interplay between blood pressure, fitness, and the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, the study provides valuable insights into the benefits of regular physical activity and weight management.
The European Society of Cardiology (ESC) guidelines recommend adults of all ages to aim for at least 150 to 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity or 75 to 150 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination, to reduce all-cause death, cardiovascular death, and illness.
Professor Laukkanen’s study reinforces the idea that being physically active is essential for overall health and well-being, and may play a crucial role in mitigating the risks associated with hypertension. While high fitness levels cannot entirely eliminate the risk of cardiovascular mortality in those with high blood pressure, the study clearly demonstrates the potential benefits of improved fitness in managing hypertension.
The study’s findings emphasize the importance of maintaining high fitness levels, especially for men with high blood pressure. Incorporating regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight can help to attenuate the risks associated with hypertension, ultimately improving overall cardiovascular health.