Healthy Teen, Healthier Adult

High body mass index, low aerobic capacity tied to hypertension later in life in men

(RxWiki News) Teen habits could cast long shadows for men when it comes to high blood pressure (hypertension).

A study from Sweden found that the body mass index (BMI) and aerobic capacity of male military conscripts in late adolescence were tied to high blood pressure later in life. High BMI and low aerobic capacity increased the risk of high blood pressure more than family history or socioeconomic factors.

“If confirmed, these findings suggest that interventions to prevent hypertension should begin early in life and include not only weight control but also aerobic fitness, even among those with a normal BMI,” the study authors wrote.

High blood pressure in adults has been on the rise over the last 20 years and currently affects about 1 in 4 adults both in the US and worldwide. Having high blood pressure increases the risk of heart attack, stroke and kidney disease.

Casey Crump, MD, PhD, of Stanford University in California, led this study of 1.5 million Swedish men. The study data was collected when the men were 18-year-old military conscripts. These patients were followed up to a maximum age of 62.

Dr. Crump and colleagues assessed aerobic capacity (the ability to exercise without becoming excessively fatigued), muscular strength and BMI.

BMI is a measurement that compares total body fat to total body weight. A high BMI can be an indication of obesity and may increase the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and hypertension.

Around 6 percent of the men studied developed high blood pressure later in life, Dr. Crump and team found. Most of these men were diagnosed with high blood pressure around age 50.

Men diagnosed with high blood pressure had lower aerobic capacity and muscle strength at age 18 than those without high blood pressure, Dr. Crump and colleagues found. Men who had low aerobic capacity and high BMI at age 18 were 3.5 times more likely to develop high blood pressure later in life than those with high aerobic capacity and normal BMI at age 18.

Men who had a normal BMI and low aerobic capacity also had an increased risk of high blood pressure later in life. Muscle strength, however, had no effect on the risk of developing high blood pressure.

The authors noted that their results applied only to men. They said health care professionals should focus on both aerobic fitness and weight control early in life.

In an editorial about this study, Carl J. Lavie, MD, of the Ochsner Medical Center, New Orleans, and coauthors noted, “Therefore, as physicians, it is imperative that we document levels of physical activity during almost all patient encounters and that we use this opportunity at nearly every visit to promote and prescribe physical activity to all of our patients.”

This study was published in the January issue of JAMA Internal Medicine.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the Swedish Research Council and a project grant from Region Skåne/Lund University funded this research. Dr. Crump and team disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
January 18, 2016