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Exercise may not be good enough to reduce mild hypertension in older people, Hopkins experts say

Moderate levels of exercise may not be enough to control mild hypertension in men and women over age 55, the age group most at risk of later developing potentially fatal heart failure, a new four-year study reports. The findings by researchers at Johns Hopkins, to be published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine online April 11, call into question the effectiveness of national guidelines on exercise for lowering blood pressure in older people.

Current guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine recommend 30- to 45-minute periods of combined aerobic exercise and moderate weightlifting, three to five times per week, with an expected reduction in blood pressure of 8 millimeters to 10 millimeters of mercury (mm/Hg).

"Exercise is highly recommended for reducing blood pressure and is part of prevention and treatment programs for an estimated 90 percent of adults in the United States who eventually develop hypertension," says exercise physiologist Kerry J. Stewart, Ed.D., professor of medicine and director of clinical and research exercise physiology programs at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and its Heart Institute. "But current exercise guidelines were based on studies that had several limitations, including that they were not tested in older adults."

Previous studies, says Stewart, who led the new study, examined mostly younger men in whom high blood pressure has different characteristics and causes than are the case in older people. Hypertension in younger adults is often due to a high cardiac output when at rest and during exercise, where the heart beats faster than it has to, he adds. However, hypertension in mature adults results from changes in the walls of the large arteries that carry blood throughout the body. These blood vessels become less elastic or flexible, a condition known as arterial stiffening, and this causes blood pressure to rise.

The Hopkins study, formally known as the S
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Contact: David March
dmarch1@jhmi.edu
410-955-1534
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
11-Apr-2005


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