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Study Shows Exercise in Young Adulthood Key to Preventing Hypertension Later in Life

San Francisco, June 10, 2024 – A groundbreaking study has revealed that maintaining high levels of physical activity during young adulthood is crucial for avoiding high blood pressure in later life. Researchers tracked over 5,000 individuals for 30 years, discovering a significant decline in exercise levels between the ages of 18 and 40, coupled with an increase in hypertension rates.

Decline in Physical Activity Linked to Hypertension

The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, indicates that the amount of exercise people engage in significantly decreases as they age from 18 to 40. Concurrently, the rates of high blood pressure, or hypertension, have been observed to rise, suggesting a strong link between the two.

To combat this trend, researchers recommend that young adults aim for at least 5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise each week. This is double the current standard recommendation of 2.5 hours weekly.

“Teenagers and those in their early 20s may be physically active, but these patterns change with age,” explained Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, an epidemiologist from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

The study’s authors acknowledge that maintaining such high levels of physical activity can be challenging due to life changes and growing responsibilities. Jason Nagata, the lead author and a UCSF expert in young adult medicine, noted, “Nearly half of our participants in young adulthood had suboptimal levels of physical activity, which was significantly associated with the onset of hypertension. This indicates that we need to raise the minimum standard for physical activity.”

Racial Disparities in Exercise and Hypertension

The study also highlighted significant racial disparities in exercise habits and hypertension rates. Black men and women showed lower levels of physical activity and higher incidences of high blood pressure compared to their white counterparts. This finding underscores the need for targeted health interventions to address these disparities.

The research suggests that increasing physical activity to twice the current minimum guidelines could be more effective in preventing hypertension. “Achieving at least twice the current minimum adult [physical activity] guidelines may be more beneficial for the prevention of hypertension than simply meeting the minimum guidelines,” the researchers stated in their paper.

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