Exercise cuts young adults' hypertension risk

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Physically active young adults are less likely than their more sedentary peers to develop high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, a new study confirms.

Exercise has been demonstrated to reduce older adults’ likelihood of developing high blood pressure, but there is little information on how physical activity affects hypertension risk in younger adults, blacks, and women, Emily D. Parker of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and colleagues note in the American Journal of Public Health.

To investigate, Parker and her team analyzed data on 3,993 black and white 18- to 30-year-old men and women who were followed for 15 years. The men were the most active, followed by white women and black women.

Study participants’ risk of developing hypertension during follow-up dropped by 11 percent for every additional 300-exercise-unit increase in activity, equivalent to about five weekly exercise sessions burning 300 calories each.

The most physically active individuals were 17 percent less likely to develop hypertension than the least active ones, and the effect was the same for both men and women and blacks and whites.

When the researchers adjusted for waist circumference and sensitivity to the blood sugar regulating hormone insulin, the exercise-hypertension link was somewhat weakened, suggesting that abdominal fat and insulin sensitivity are involved in the relationship.

But adjusting for participants’ body mass index (BMI) had no effect. BMI is a standard measure used to classify people as normal-weight, overweight or obese based on their weight and height.

Based on their results, Parker and her colleagues say “physical activity merits attention in the prevention of incident hypertension among young adults, particularly as they move into middle age.”

SOURCE: American Journal of Public Health, April 2007.