Diet and Exercise Prove Beneficial to Hypertensives

Nearly 50 million Americans have hypertension (high blood pressure). It is called “the silent killer” because, if left untreated, it prematurely ages the arteries and can lead to strokes, heart attacks and kidney failure — often without warning.

A some study supports the widely held belief that exercise is important in improving the health of hypertensives. According to the study, heavy hypertensives who lose weight through diet and exercise also increase the heart’s pumping efficiency by reducing the size of their hearts.

It is the first study to follow up on the relationship between body weight and left ventricular mass size after a weight-reduction program in obese people with high blood pressure and obese people with normal blood pressure. The left ventricle is responsible for most of the heart’s pumping action. When the size of the left ventricle is reduced, the heart pumps more efficiently. The researchers also found that the heavy hypertensives were better at maintaining their weight loss. They attributed the weight loss maintenance to sticking to their physical activity regimen. “The study ? underscores the importance of weight loss and maintaining the weight loss through continued diet and exercise,” said Dr. Michael Weber, M.D., an editor of the American Journal of Hypertension. “On-and-off dieting, where people lose weight but then regain the lost pounds, is of great concern when treating obese people.

Diet and Exercise Prove Beneficial to Hypertensives

“That’s why a program of diet and exercise is a positive, two-step combination that prevents weight gain and helps keep blood pressure down,” he continued. “It also helps the heart work at peak efficiency by reducing heart mass since an enlarged heart almost invariably leads to heart attacks, sudden cardiac death or heart failure. A further benefit is the marked reduction in the need for blood pressure medications.”

In the study, 14 mildly hypertensive obese subjects (13 men and one woman) and 22 obese subjects with normal blood pressure (18 men and four women) participated in a 12-week supervised weight-reduction program involving mild exercise and a low-calorie diet. The subjects ranged in age from 22 to 51 years old.

Calorie intake varied for each participant. All were advised not to eat snacks, to limit alcohol or beverage intake and to reduce fatty foods, carbohydrates and salt. Exercise choices were pedaling a cycle ergometer or walking on a treadmill for 30 minutes and stretching and walking or jogging for 30 minutes.

After 12 weeks the subjects were advised to maintain their modified lifestyle during a one-year unsupervised period. The researchers from the University of Occupational and Environmental Health, Kitakyushu, Japan, made no intervention with regard to type of exercise training or food intake during the year.

“One year after intervention, weight regain in the normotensive and hypertensive groups was not statistically significant,” the researchers reported. “However, weight regain in the hypertensive group was less than that in the normotensive group.”

After 12 weeks the mean weight reduction in the hypertensive group was 12.7 pounds (5.8 kilograms) while the mean weight loss in the normotensive group was 9 pounds (4.1 kilograms). One year later, the mean weight gain by the hypertensive group was 0.88 pounds (0.4 kilograms) while the normotensive group gained 5.06 pounds (2.3 kilograms).

“The precise reason for this difference is not clear,” researchers stated, “but may be related to our finding that hypertensive obese subjects seemed to have greater physical activity than normotensive obese subjects after the weight reduction program.”

They also found that left ventricular mass did not increase in either group at a one-year follow-up. They said the mechanisms of change in left ventricular mass might be attributed to different actions.

“The change in left ventricular mass in the normotensive group may be associated with a change in body weight whereas that in the hypertensive group may be largely attributable to a change in blood pressure,” the researchers explain. “However, even in the hypertensive group, the change in body weight contributed to the change in left ventricular mass to some extent, as it is well known that weight reduction in hypertensive obese subjects decreases blood pressure.”

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