Washington DC VA Medical Center
Moderate Exercise and Hypertensive Men
Older Hypertensive Men Can Lower Their Risk of Death with Moderate Exercise
Being moderately fit may help older men with hypertension live longer, according to a study published in the American Heart Association's journal Hypertension (May 12, 2014).
Dr. Charles Faselis and Dr. Peter Kokkinos of the Washington DC VA Medical Center looked at the exercise tests of 2,153 hypertensive Veterans from the VA Medical Centers in Washington, DC and Palo Alto, California. What they found when they followed up, an average of nine years later, was that even a moderate fitness level of elderly men with high blood pressure lowered their risk of death. In fact, the fittest of the elderly men were half as likely to die as the least fit.
That's very good news for those over 70, the study also had good news for the rest of us. The study's findings support the concept that fitness has a positive impact on health regardless of age or the presence of chronic illness.
How does one achieve a moderate level of fitness? According to Dr. Faselis, Chief of Medical Service at the VA Medical Center in DC, a moderate "level of fitness is achievable by most elderly individuals by engaging in a brisk walk of 20 to 40 minutes, most days of the week". To determine fitness levels in the lab, the researchers placed Veterans on a treadmill and used equipment to measure their oxygen intake.
The researchers measured the fitness levels using METs, metabolic equivalents of the task. One MET is equal to the amount of energy expended at rest. According to Dr. Peter Kokkinos, Washington DC VA Medical Center's Exercise Physiologist, professor and senior author of the study, "The peak MET level of a sedentary 50 -year old is about five or six METs. A marathon runner may have a MET level of 20 or more." For a moderately fit person the METs is seven to nine.
The researchers found that for every one-MET increase in exercise capacity, the risk of death was 11 percent lower.
Compared to least-fit men (those with up to 4 peak METs):
- Those in the low-fit category (4.1 to 6 peak METs) had an 18 percent lower risk of death;
- Moderately-fit men (6.1 to 8 peak METs) had a 36 percent lower risk of death; and
- High-fit men (greater than 8 peak METs) had a 48 percent lower risk of death.
"For every 100 people who died in the least-fit category, 82 died in the low-fit, 64 in the moderate-fit and 52 in the high-fit categories," Kokkinos said. "The death rate is cut in half for those in the highest fitness category."
Co-authors are Michalis Doumas, M.D.; Andreas Pittaras, M.D.; Puneet Narayan, M.D.; Jonathan Myers, Ph.D.; and Apostolos Tsimploulis, M.D. Author disclosures are on the manuscript.