Fitness May Trump Family History When It Comes to High Blood Pressure

A study finds that moderate exercise can lower your chance of developing hypertension, even if you are genetically predisposed.

Posted: 05/21/2012 12:42 PM EDT

Having just one parent who has high blood pressure, or hypertension, increases your chance of developing the disease by 20 percent. Given how prevalent hypertension is in the Black community, this is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.

According to the American Heart Association, 40 percent of all African-Americans suffer from high blood pressure. And when we have hypertension, not only is it more severe, but African-Americans develop it at a younger age. Genetics, obesity and diabetes are believed to play a factor in these rates.

But there is some good news.

A recent study found that despite a family history of hypertension, consistent fitness can decrease your chance of developing the chronic illness down the road.  

For a five-year period, researchers from the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina analyzed more than 6,278 relatively fit men and women of all ages — 34 percent of them had at least one parent with a history of hypertension. According to the Huffington Post, research points to:

—Those who could maintain a moderate to high fitness level over time, despite a family history, were 34 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure, compared to the people who never worked at all.
—People who walked fast for 150 minutes a week also saw benefits. Researchers found a 26 percent less likely chance of developing hypertension.
—And for those people who worked out hard and a lot, their chance was decreased by 42 percent.
—Those who had at least one parent with high blood pressure and who remained inactive were 70 percent more likely to develop hypertension than fit individuals with no family history.

Now, it must be pointed out that the majority of the people in this study were white, highly educated and middle- to upper-middle class, and so the barriers that people of color and lower-income Americans face were nonfactors in this study. But that doesn't mean that the findings are completely irrelevant to African-American health.

Hopefully, the researchers are working on or will begin research looking at the connection between race, family history of hypertension and exercise. In the meantime, for those who are working out, continue to do so. And for those who are not, now is the best time to start.

 

 

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