Low Fitness in Youth Linked to Hypertension

Many adults have high blood pressure, but until recently, there has been little knowledge as to the origin. A recent study commissioned by scientists at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine has found a substantial correlation between young adults who don’t get enough aerobic, physical exercise and having high blood pressure later in life.

Researchers who analyzed 20 years of data on 4,618 men and women surmised that a substantial proportion of high blood pressure cases are associated with a lack of physical activity and not enough aerobic fitness. The researchers measured blood pressure and estimated fitness levels based on the duration of treadmill tests conducted on subjects between 18 and 30 years of age in 1985. A baseline level was ascertained and then the participants were re-examined after two, five, seven, 10, 15, and 20 years.

Study researcher Mercedes Carnethon, PhD, says the study confirms earlier research pointing to a link between fitness and hypertension “by showing that fitness during young adulthood – a time when cardiovascular disease risk burden is typically low – is an important indicator of hypertension development in middle age.”

High blood pressure is commonly known to develop over a long period of time and is attributed to a combination of factors that includes genetics, diet, and health behaviors.

“Our study measures a comprehensive set of these health risk factors over 20 years, making this one of the longest follow-up studies to test whether activity and fitness are associated with hypertension development,” she says.

The study reaffirms the need for a healthy diet and sustained aerobic exercise beginning in the teen years.

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