A new study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology has shown that high levels of fitness may reduce the risk of death from heart disease in men with high blood pressure.
The study included over 2,000 men between the ages of 42 and 61 who were enrolled in the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study. Baseline measurements were taken between 1984 and 1989 and included blood pressure (classified as normal or high) and cardiorespiratory fitness (classified as low, medium, or high). Then, participants were followed for a median of 29 years to determine the relationship between blood pressure, fitness, and risk of death due to cardiovascular disease.
During the follow-up period, which ended in 2018, 644 of the participants died due to cardiovascular disease. Those who had high blood pressure at the start of the study had a 39% increased risk of death due to cardiovascular disease, and those with a low fitness level had a 74% greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared with those who had high fitness. Those with both high blood pressure and low fitness had a more than doubled risk of cardiovascular mortality compared to those with normal blood pressure and high fitness. However, those with high blood pressure and high fitness had much lower risk; about 55% higher than those with normal blood pressure and high fitness.
The striking results of this study illustrate the large impact that fitness can have on heart disease and mortality. While high fitness levels did not completely eliminate the risk of death due to heart disease in the presence of high blood pressure, they significantly lowered it. One of the authors noted that improving fitness and avoiding excess weight should be a goal for any person who has high blood pressure.