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Aerobic exercise helps hard-to-treat high blood pressure
- By Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter
Research we're watching
People whose blood pressure remains high despite taking several medications have what doctors refer to as resistant hypertension. A small study finds that regular aerobic exercise may help these people lower their blood pressure.
The study included 53 people ages 40 to 75 with resistant hypertension, all of whom continued taking their blood pressure medications. Twenty-six were randomly assigned to a supervised exercise program that involved walking, cycling, or a combination of the two for 40 minutes, three times a week, for 12 weeks. The other 27 received usual care, including lifestyle advice. Researchers measured the participants’ 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure at the start and end of the study.
Compared with the usual care group, the exercisers lowered their systolic blood pressure (the first number in a reading) by an average of 7.1 points and their diastolic blood pressure (the second number) by 5.1 points. Doctors already recommend aerobic exercise as a first-line treatment for high blood pressure. These new findings confirm the importance of this advice for people with resistant hypertension, say the authors, whose study was published online August 4, 2021, by JAMA Cardiology.Image: © skynesher/Getty Images
About the Author
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter
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Controlling Your Blood Pressure
An alarming one in three American adults has high blood pressure. Known medically as hypertension, many people don't even know they have it, because high blood pressure has no symptoms or warning signs. But when elevated blood pressure is accompanied by abnormal cholesterol and blood sugar levels, the damage to your arteries, kidneys, and heart accelerates exponentially. Fortunately, high blood pressure is easy to detect and treat. In the Special Health Report, Controlling Your Blood Pressure, find out how to keep blood pressure in a healthy range simply by making lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, increasing activity, and eating more healthfully.
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