High blood pressure at maximal exercise may signal good fitness

Is it dangerous to have high blood pressure when exercising? “It depends”, is the answer from a newly published study.

iStock.com/Tashi-Delek

One important parameter used to give a prognosis or diagnosis in several conditions is blood pressure during exercise. A new study led by LiU scientist Kristofer Hedman shows that high blood pressure at maximal exertion cannot be interpreted as an unambiguous health risk: it may also be a sign of good fitness.

During his postdoc period at Stanford University, USA, he has developed a new way to interpret the blood pressure response to exercise. This involves considering not only the load under which the subject is placed, but also the blood pressure during exercise.

“The higher the workload you can deal with and perform well, the higher your blood pressure usually becomes. And better fitness in itself is positive for survival”, says Kristofer Hedman.

The study included more than 7,500 men who underwent testing on a treadmill and subsequent follow-up between 1987 and 2018. High blood pressure at the end of a work test, i.e. when the subject has given maximal exertion, was linked to a lower risk of death during a 20-year follow-up period. When, however, the load applied was considered, the study found that a larger increase in blood pressure relative to the load was linked to a higher risk of death.

“The results show that when using blood pressure during exercise as a parameter in prognosis, we must consider the level of exertion that the person experiences. This is not generally the case today”, Kristofer Hedman concludes.

Link to the article (European Journal of Preventive Cardiology)
Link to a video summary (Youtube)

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