Posted on Sep 27, 2023, 2 p.m.
In America, an estimated 80% of older adults have high blood pressure, and it is important to find ways to prevent this as maintaining a healthy blood pressure can help to protect against serious health conditions such as heart failure, strokes, and heart attacks.
Research recently published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Development and Disease from the University of Connecticut (UCONN) indicates that adding 3,000 steps per day, which really is a relatively minimal amount of movement, can help to significantly reduce high blood pressure among older adults.
“We’ll all get high blood pressure if we live long enough, at least in this country,” says Linda Pescatello, distinguished professor of kinesiology in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources at UCONN “That’s how prevalent it is.”
Previous research has demonstrated that exercise can have significant immediate and long-lasting impacts on lowering blood pressure in hypertensive adults. This pilot study set out to determine if older adults with hypertension could achieve these same benefits by moderately increasing their daily walking. Walking is one of the easiest and most popular forms of physical activity among the older generations, and it can be done just about anywhere without any special equipment for free.
This study focused on a group of sedentary older adults aged 68 to 78 who walked an average of 4,000 daily steps before enrollment and were asked to increase their daily steps by 3,000. Participants were given kits that contained pedometers, blood pressure monitors, and step diaries/journals to record how long and how much they walked every day.
According to the researchers, participant systolic blood pressure decreased by an average of 7 points, and diastolic blood pressure was found to have decreased by an average of 4 points after the intervention. Other studies suggest that similar decreases correspond with a relative risk reduction of all-cause mortality by 11%, a 16% reduction in cardiovascular mortality, an 18% reduction in the risk of heart disease, and a 36% reduction in the risk of stroke.
“It’s exciting that a simple lifestyle intervention can be just as effective as structured exercise and some medications,” said Elizabeth Lefferts, the lead author of the paper from Iowa State University. Pescatello worked with Lefferts, Duck-Chun Lee, and others in Lee’s lab at Iowa State University.
“In a previous study, we found that when exercise is combined with medication, exercise bolsters the effects of blood pressure medication alone,” Pescatello says. “It just speaks to the value of exercise as anti-hypertensive therapy. It’s not to negate the effects of medication at all, but it’s part of the treatment arsenal.”
“We saw that the volume of physical activity is what’s really important here, not the intensity,” Pescatello says. “Using the volume as a target, whatever fits in and whatever works conveys health benefits.”
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.
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