According to a presentation at the World Congress of Cardiology, people with hypertension (high blood pressure) could reduce their risk of dying from cardiovascular disease (CVD) or all-cause mortality to a level equivalent a reduction of 40~50 mmHg in blood pressure, simply by exercising.

High blood pressure is one of the major preventable risk factors for premature CVD deaths worldwide, contributing to about 50% of all CVDs. The risk of developing CVD doubles for every 10-point increase in diastolic blood pressure, and if left untreated, hypertension can dramatically raise a person's risk of developing CVD. Hypertension treatment has been linked to reducing the risk of stroke by 35 to 40%, as well as reducing the risk of a heart attack by at least 16%.

The researchers conducted a prospective study that involved 434,190 Taiwanese people over a 12-year period, of which 54% were classified as being inactive, 22% as having a low level of activity and 24% as having a medium or higher activity level. The researchers compared the all cause and CVD mortality risk in between all activity levels and subsequently identified the blood pressure equivalence of physical activity by the difference in mortality risks between physically inactive and active participants.

The findings revealed that all-cause and CVD mortality risks were considerably higher at all blood pressure levels in participants that did no physical exercise, as compared with those who were physically active. Furthermore, when the higher death risk due to physical inactivity was converted into a measurement of "blood pressure equivalence of physical activity", the findings demonstrated that being physically inactive was similar to a higher death risk equivalent to a 40-50 mmHg higher blood pressure.

Dr. CP Wen of the Institute of Population Health Science at the National Health Research Institute in Taiwan said:

"The risk of developing CVD has been proven to increase significantly as blood pressure increases; and reducing blood pressure to reduce CVD risk is an important treatment goal for all physicians. This study is the first to quantify the impact of exercise on the risk profile of people with high blood pressure. Appreciating this relationship will hopefully help to motivate people with high blood pressure that are inactive to take exercise."

Dr Wen concluded:

"To date, exercise and high blood pressure have been managed separately, with people mainly being concerned about their blood pressure readings. However, these results suggest that doctors should also discuss the importance of physical exercise as a means to manage the CVD and all-cause mortality risk."

Written By Petra Rattue