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Exercise Reduces BP in All Groups

Almost 50 million Americans suffer from high blood pressure (BP), and cardiovascular disease has been the leading cause of death in the U.S. for more than 80 years. Over $320 billion is spent every year on the approximately 60 million people with cardiovascular disease, yet high BP is the most important modifiable risk factor for this disease.

Studies show that reducing BP reduces occurrence and death from cardiovascular disease, even when diastolic BP is lowered as little as 2 mm Hg. Antihypertensive medications have been shown to lower risk for cardiovascular disease, but may have dangerous side effects. Aerobic exercise is therefore prescribed, yet it is unknown if exercise can effectively reduce BP in all subsets of the population.

The authors of this study performed a sophisticated literature review to analyze 54 clinical trials in which exercise was used to reduce BP. The data from each of these studies were then combined to determine the effectiveness of exercise to reduce BP in various groups, and to determine if specific types of exercise are more effective than others. The studies involved 2,419 total subjects.

Any form of aerobic exercise reduced BP in every type of previously sedentary person, regardless of race, gender, weight, and presence of hypertension. Frequency and intensity of exercise did not appear to significantly affect BP. The average study length was 12 weeks; the average reduction in BP was 3.8 mm Hg systolic and 2.6 mm Hg diastolic. Trials that required supervision of exercise and excluded use of antihypertensive drugs showed greater reductions in BP.

"The blood pressure reduction that we observed may be of moderate interest to practitioners treating individual patients. However, a small decrease in the population's average blood pressure level should dramatically reduce incidence of and death from cardiovascular disease in communities," the authors write.

Note: Essentially, this study reports that any aerobic exercise will help reduce a patient's risk for high blood pressure, and probably cardiovascular disease. Help your patients maximize wellness by suggesting appropriate exercise recommendations.

Whelton SP, Chin A, Xin X, et al. Effect of aerobic exercise on blood pressure: A meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials. Annals of Internal Medicine 2002:136(7), pp. 493-503.


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Date Last Modified - Monday, 27-Jul-2009 09:14:03 PDT