High blood pressure during and after exercise may be associated with heart disease later in life

Doctor monitors patient's blood pressure during exercise on treadmill.

Higher blood pressure during exercise and delayed blood pressure recovery after exercise are associated with a higher risk of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and death among middle-aged to older adults, researchers are reporting. The findings underscore the importance of monitoring your blood pressure during midlife and following a healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity, they say.

Researchers have known for some time that blood pressure responses to exercise are significant markers of heart disease and risk of death among young to middle-aged adults.  However, few studies have examined the associations of midlife (age 55 years or older) blood pressure responses to submaximal (less than the maximum of which an individual is capable) exercise with the risk of cardiovascular outcomes and mortality in later life.

In the study, researchers evaluated the association of blood pressure changes and recovery with indicators of preclinical disease among participants from the Framingham Heart Study (average age 58 years, 53 percent women). They then followed these participants to assess whether these blood pressure changes were associated with the risk of developing hypertension, cardiovascular disease or dying. They found that higher blood pressure during submaximal exercise was associated with a greater risk of developing hypertension. The study, funded by NHLBI, appeared in the Journal of the America Heart Association.