Monday, January 14, 2019

Can Exercise Lower High Blood Pressure as Effectively as Drugs?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 75 million adults in the United States have to manage high blood pressure, where it exceeds the threshold of 140 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). The condition can increase their risk of developing heart disease or experiencing a stroke, both of which are leading causes of death in the U.S. Moreover, high blood pressure drives an expense of around $48.6 billion per year nationally, including the cost of medication, accessed health care, and absence from work.

People with high blood pressure typically follow an antihypertensive or blood pressure-lowering treatment, which includes special medication. At the same time, specialists sometimes advise that people make lifestyle changes to help them manage their blood pressure. One such change is to take regular, structured exercise.

However, no studies have yet compared the effectiveness of physical activity in lowering blood pressure with that of antihypertensive medication. A new study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine — a BMJ publication — aims to address this gap in the literature.
In the current study, they looked at the data from 194 clinical trials that focused on antihypertensive drugs and their impact on systolic blood pressure, and another 197 clinical trials, looking at the effect of structured exercise on blood pressure measurements. In total, these trials collected information from 39,742 participants.

They found that antihypertensive drugs were more effective in lowering blood pressure than structured exercise in the case of the general population. However, when they looked specifically at people with high blood pressure, they saw that exercise was as effective as most blood-lowering medication. Moreover, the study authors concluded that there is "compelling evidence that combining endurance and dynamic resistance training was effective in reducing [systolic blood pressure]."

My Take:
Many patients try weight loss to reduce blood pressure which is often effective when they are overweight. However, the addition of aerobic exercise, like running, brisk walking, cycling or swimming and weight lifting is the key to reducing hypertension.

Bottom Line:
If you take hypertensive drugs try this combination of exercise (under medical supervision) and monitor your blood pressure. You should be able to reduce or eliminate high pressure medication over the course of several months.

December 31, 2018 NIH

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