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Study reveals how much exercise you need each week to control your blood pressure: ScienceAlert

When it comes to exercise for heart health, you don’t want to exercise too early in life. Recent research suggests that if you want to protect yourself from high blood pressure as you age, you need to play the long game and maintain your exercise levels into middle age.

But social factors may make this more difficult for some people than others, according to a study of more than 5,000 people in 4 U.S. cities.

“Teenagers and those in their early 20s may be physically active, but these trends change with age,” explained study author and epidemiologist Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo of the University of California, San Francisco ( UCSF) in April 2021, when the study was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Many studies have shown that exercise lowers blood pressure, but the new work suggests that “maintaining physical activity in early adulthood – at higher levels than previously recommended – may be particularly important “to prevent hypertension,” Bibbins-Domingo said.

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a serious condition that affects billions of people around the world. This can lead to heart attack and stroke; it is also a risk factor for developing dementia later in life.

According to the World Health Organization, more than one in four men and about one in five women suffer from hypertension. But most people with high blood pressure don’t even know they have it – which is why it’s often called the “silent killer.”

However, there are ways to remedy high blood pressure: exercise is at the center of this study.

More than 5,100 adults were recruited for the study, which tracked their health for three decades using physical assessments and questionnaires about their exercise habits, smoking status and alcohol consumption.

During each clinical assessment, blood pressure was measured three times, one minute apart, and for data analysis, participants were grouped into four categories, by race and gender.

Overall – among men, women and in both racial groups – physical activity levels fell from ages 18 to 40, with increasing rates of hypertension and decreasing physical activity in subsequent decades.

According to the researchers, this suggests that young adulthood is an important window to intervene in the prevention of midlife hypertension through health promotion programs designed to boost exercise.

“Nearly half of our young adult participants had suboptimal physical activity levels, which was significantly associated with the onset of hypertension, indicating that we need to raise minimum activity standards physical activity,” said lead author Jason Nagata, a UCSF expert in the field of physical activity. young adult medicine.

When researchers looked at people who had done five hours of moderate exercise per week in early adulthood – double the minimum amount currently recommended for adults – they found that this level of activity significantly reduced the risk of hypertension, especially if people maintained their physical activity. habits up to 60 years old.

“Achieving at least twice the current minimum guidelines for adults (physical activity) may be more beneficial for hypertension prevention than simply meeting the minimum guidelines,” the researchers wrote in their paper.

But it’s not easy to ramp up weekly physical activity amid life-changing decisions and increasing responsibilities.

“This may be particularly the case after high school, when opportunities for physical activity decline as young adults transition to college, the workforce, and parenthood, and leisure time erodes “Nagata said.

As for another sobering truth, the study also showed how black men and black women experience very different health trajectories than their white counterparts. By age 40, physical activity levels plateaued among white men and women, while activity levels among black participants continued to decline.

At age 45, black women surpassed white men in rates of hypertension, while white women in the study experienced the lowest rates of hypertension until their 40s.

And by age 60, between 80 and 90 percent of black men and women had hypertension, compared with just under 70 percent of white men and about half of white women.

The research team attributed these well-known racial disparities to a multitude of social and economic factors; not that these factors were assessed in this study, although a high school diploma was noted.

“Although young black men may be highly engaged in sports, socioeconomic factors, neighborhood environment, and work or family responsibilities may prevent continued physical activity into adulthood,” Nagata said.

The study was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

An earlier version of this article was published in April 2021.

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