High blood pressure is, among other things, a risk factor for heart attacks and strokes. However, increasing daily exercise by around 3,000 steps can effectively reduce high blood pressure in older people.
A new study involving experts from the University of Connecticut examined the effect on blood pressure when older people take an extra 3,000 steps a day. The results can be read in the “Journal of Cardiovascular Development and Disease”.
Physical activity can lower blood pressure
Exercise can provide significant immediate and long-lasting reductions in blood pressure in adults suffering from hypertension, the team reports. In their current study, the researchers have now examined whether a moderate increase in the number of steps taken every day can reduce high blood pressure in older people.
For this purpose, 21 participants between the ages of 68 and 78 (13 women and eight men) were instructed to increase the number of steps they took every day by 3,000. All participants had high blood pressure at the start of the study and before the study their average daily step count was around 4,000 steps.
An increase in steps taken by 3,000 was targeted because this increase is not too demanding but is enough to provide a health benefit, the team explains.
To determine the number of steps, the participants were given pedometers, blood pressure monitors and step diaries. This meant they could measure the number of steps they took and their blood pressure and record in the diary how many steps they had taken.
Lowering blood pressure
It was shown that the participants’ 3,000 additional steps per day reduced their systolic blood pressure by an average of seven points (mmHg) and their diastolic blood pressure by an average of four points (mmHg), the researchers report.
According to the team, results from other studies suggest that reductions in blood pressure levels of this magnitude are associated with a relative reduction in the risk of all-cause mortality by 11 percent and cardiovascular mortality by 16 percent.
Reduced risk of heart disease and stroke
Furthermore, the reduction in systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure through the additional steps taken also reduces the relative risk of heart disease by 18 percent and the relative risk of suffering a stroke is reduced by 36 percent.
7,000 steps as effective as blood pressure lowering medications
According to the researchers, the results indicate that the approximately 7,000 steps that the participants achieved daily resulted in a reduction in blood pressure that is comparable to taking blood pressure-lowering medication.
“It’s exciting that a simple lifestyle intervention can be just as effective as structured exercise and some medications,” study author Elizabeth Lefferts added in a press release. (as)