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Lifestyle modifications to prevent and control hypertension.

On Mar 17, 2014


Objective: To provide updated, evidence-based recommendations for health care professionals concerning the effects of regular physical activity on the prevention and control of hypertension in otherwise healthy adults.

Options: People may engage in no, sporadic or regular physical activity that may be of low, moderate or vigorous intensity. For sedentary people with hypertension, the options are to undertake or maintain regular physical activity and to avoid or moderate medication use; to use another lifestyle modification technique; to commence or continue antihypertensive medication; or to take no action and remain at increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Outcomes: The health outcomes considered were changes in blood pressure and in morbidity and mortality rates. Because of insufficient evidence, no economic outcomes were considered.

Evidence: A Medline search was conducted for the period 1966-1997 with the terms exercise, exertion, physical activity, hypertension and blood pressure. Both reports of trials and review articles were obtained. Other relevant evidence was obtained from the reference lists of these articles, from the personal files of the authors and through contacts with experts. The articles were reviewed, classified according to study design and graded according to level of evidence.

Values: A high value was placed on avoidance of cardiovascular morbidity and premature death caused by untreated hypertension.

Benefits, Harms and Costs: Physical activity of moderate intensity involving rhythmic movements with the lower limbs for 50-60 minutes, 3 or 4 times per week, reduces blood pressure and appears to be more effective than vigorous exercise. Harm is uncommon and is generally restricted to the musculoskeletal injuries that may occur with any repetitive activity. Injury occurs more often with jogging than with walking, cycling or swimming. The costs include the costs of appropriate shoes, garments and equipment, but these were not specifically measured.

Recommendations: (1) People with mild hypertension should engage in 50-60 minutes of moderate rhythmic exercise of the lower limbs, such as brisk walking or cycling, 3 or 4 times per week to reduce blood pressure, (2) Exercise should be prescribed as an adjunctive therapy for people who require pharmacologic therapy for hypertension, especially those who are not receiving beta-blockers. (3) People who do not have hypertension should participate in regular exercise as it will decrease blood pressure and reduce the risk of coronary artery disease, although there is no direct evidence that it will prevent hypertension.

Validation: These recommendations agree with those of the World Hypertension League, the American College of Sports Medicine, the report of the US Surgeon General on physical activity and health, and the US National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Panel on Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Health. These guidelines have not been clinically tested. SPONSORS: The Canadian Hypertension Society, the Canadian Coalition for High Blood Pressure Prevention and Control, the Laboratory Centre for Disease Control at Health Canada, and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

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