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Researchers to young adults: Up your exercise time to avoid high blood pressure in midlife

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San Francisco — Although current exercise guidelines from the World Health Organization call for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate activity a week, results of a recent study led by researchers from the University of California, San Francisco indicate that young adults should double that amount if they want to lower their risk of high blood pressure when they’re older.

The researchers followed more than 5,100 participants ages 18-30 in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study for 30 years. The researchers inquired about exercise habits, medical history, smoking status and alcohol use, while monitoring blood pressure and weight together with cholesterol and triglycerides.

 

The participants who exercised moderately at least five hours a week during early adulthood were 18% less likely to develop high blood pressure than those who didn’t reach the five-hour threshold. Sustaining that level of exercise into their 50s further lowered the risk.

Doctors should routinely ask patients about physical activity, lead study author Jason Nagata, a physician in the UCSF Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine, said in a university press release. He also recommends that intervention programs take place in schools, colleges, workplaces, churches and community organizations.

“Nearly half of our participants in young adulthood had suboptimal levels of physical activity, which was significantly associated with the onset of hypertension, indicating that we need to raise the minimum standard for physical activity,” Nagata said. “This might be especially the case after high school when opportunities for physical activity diminish as young adults transition to college, the workforce and parenthood, and leisure time is eroded.”

The study was published online in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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