Reduce your cardiovascular risk with fitness! Learn how being fit can help offset the negative impact of high blood pressure. Tips for a heart-healthy lifestyle included.
- High blood pressure is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and premature death.
- The study suggests that being fit can help offset some of the negative impacts of high blood pressure on cardiovascular health.
- Men with high blood pressure should aim to improve their fitness levels with regular physical activity, in addition to making other lifestyle changes such as adopting a heart-healthy diet, quitting smoking, managing stress, and getting enough sleep.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a common condition that affects nearly 1.3 billion adults aged 30 to 79 years worldwide.
It is a major risk factor for heart attack, stroke, and premature death.
However, a recent study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology found that being fit can help offset some of the negative impacts of high blood pressure on cardiovascular health.
The study was conducted by Professor Jari Laukkanen of the University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, Finland, and evaluated the joint effects of fitness and blood pressure on the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.
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.
Baseline measurements were conducted between 1984 and 1989, including blood pressure and cardiorespiratory fitness assessment.
Participants were categorized based on their blood pressure and fitness levels.
During a median follow-up of 29 years, there were 644 deaths due to cardiovascular disease.
The study found that high blood pressure was associated with a 39% increased risk of cardiovascular mortality.
In addition, low fitness levels were associated with a 74% elevated likelihood of cardiovascular death.
Men with high blood pressure and low fitness had more than double the risk of cardiovascular death compared to those with normal blood pressure and high fitness.
Professor Laukkanen notes that
“Both high blood pressure and low fitness levels were each associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular death. High fitness levels attenuated, but did not eliminate, the increased risk of cardiovascular mortality in men with elevated blood pressure.”
According to Dr. Nieca Goldberg, a cardiologist and medical director of the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at NYU Langone Health:
“It’s important to understand that exercise is a powerful medicine, and that it can help lower blood pressure, as well as decrease inflammation, improve glucose levels, and help people maintain a healthy weight.”
The Importance Of Fitness
The study suggests that being fit can help protect against some of the negative effects of high blood pressure on cardiovascular health.
However, getting blood pressure under control should remain a goal in those with elevated levels.
Men with high blood pressure should aim to improve their fitness levels with regular physical activity.
According to the American Heart Association, adults should aim for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise.
Dr. Goldberg adds that:
“Any physical activity is better than none, and it’s never too late to start. Even small amounts of activity can help.”
Diet And Lifestyle Changes
In addition to regular physical activity, other lifestyle changes can help improve cardiovascular health.
Dr. Goldberg recommends adopting a heart-healthy diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
Limiting sodium, added sugars, and saturated and trans fats is also important.
Other lifestyle changes that can help include quitting smoking, managing stress, and getting enough sleep.
According to Dr. Goldberg:
“It’s important to take a holistic approach to heart health, and to make lifestyle changes that can benefit the whole body.”
In conclusion, high blood pressure is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and premature death.
However, being fit can help offset some of the negative impacts of high blood pressure on cardiovascular health.
Men with high blood pressure should aim to improve their fitness levels with regular physical activity, in addition to making other lifestyle changes such as adopting a heart-healthy diet, quitting smoking, managing stress, and getting enough sleep.
Dr. Goldberg emphasizes that:
“The key is to make these changes sustainable, and to find what works for you. It’s not about making drastic changes overnight, but about making small, manageable changes that you can stick with over time.”
Regular check-ups with a healthcare provider are also important for managing high blood pressure and preventing cardiovascular disease.
According to Dr. Goldberg:
“It’s important to work with your healthcare provider to monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and to make adjustments to your lifestyle and medication regimen as needed.”
Laukkanen JA, Jae SY, Kurl S, Kunutsor SK. High fitness levels attenuate the increased risk of cardiovascular deaths in individuals with high systolic blood pressure. Eur J Prev Cardiol. 2023. doi:10.1093/eurjpc/zwad034.
2 WHO key facts on hypertension. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/hypertension
3 Visseren FLJ, Mach F, Smulders YM, et al. 2021 ESC Guidelines on cardiovascular disease prevention in clinical practice. Eur Heart J. 2021;42:3227–3337.