Physical Activity in Young Tied to Incident Hypertension

Being fit, physically active at young age associated with lower hypertension risk later
By Jeff Muise
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, June 2 (HealthDay News) -- Maintaining physical fitness and being physically active at a young age are each independently associated with a reduced risk of eventually developing hypertension, according to research published online June 1 in Hypertension.

Mercedes R. Carnethon, Ph.D., of Northwestern University in Chicago, and colleagues assembled data on 4,618 subjects from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults longitudinal study begun in 1985/1986, when participants were 18 to 30 years of age. Using treadmill test results and self-reported physical activity, they analyzed the independent relationships between physical fitness and physical activity and the 20-year incidence of hypertension (systolic blood pressure ≥140 mm Hg or diastolic blood pressure ≥90 mm Hg or use of hypertensive medication).

Overall, the incidence of hypertension was 13.8 per 1000 person-years. The researchers found that both baseline fitness and physical activity were inversely associated with hypertension after adjusting for a host of risk factors, including age, sex, race, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, dietary fiber, dietary sodium, fasting glucose, body mass index, systolic blood pressure, baseline smoking, and alcohol intake (hazard ratios, 0.63 and 0.86, respectively). The association between fitness and hypertension was of similar magnitude across levels of physical activity, but the association between physical activity and hypertension was strongest for subjects in the high fitness category (hazard ratio, 0.80).

"The estimated proportion of hypertension cases that could be prevented if participants moved to a higher fitness category (i.e., preventive fraction) was 34 percent and varied by race and sex group. Fitness and physical activity are each associated with incident hypertension, and low fitness may account for a substantial proportion of hypertension incidence," the authors write.

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