Elderly Men with High Blood Pressure Lower Death
Risk with Just Moderate Exercise
Fittest of the senior men were half as likely to die
as the least fit; fitness has positive impact on health regardless of
age or chronic illness.
May 13, 2014 - Elderly men – age 70 and older -
with high blood pressure can lower their risk of death with even
moderate levels of
fitness, according to new research in the American Heart
Association’s journal Hypertension.
“This level of fitness is achievable by most
elderly individuals engaging in a brisk walk of 20 to 40 minutes, most
days of the week,” said Charles Faselis, M.D., lead author of the study
and chief and professor of medicine at George Washington University in
For the study, researchers assessed the fitness
status of 2,153 men, aged 70 years and older with high blood pressure by
a standard treadmill exercise test.
Researchers applied the international units used to
measure fitness, called metabolic equivalents (METs), to determine the
men’s peak fitness levels. A MET is equal to the amount of oxygen the
body uses per kilogram of body weight per minute. One MET is the amount
of energy expended at rest; anything above that represents work.
Researchers categorized the men as very low
fitness, low fitness, moderate fitness, and high fitness.
“To put this in perspective, the peak MET level of
a sedentary 50-year-old is about five to six METs,” said Peter Kokkinos,
Ph.D., senior author and professor at Veterans Affairs Medical Center,
Georgetown University School of Medicine and George Washington
University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.
“For a moderately fit individual, it’s about seven
to nine METS, and for a highly fit person, it’s 10 to 12 METs. Still,
marathon runners, cyclists and other long distance athletes often have
MET levels of 20 or higher.”
After an average follow-up of nine years,
researchers found that the risk of death was 11 percent lower for every
one-MET increase in exercise capacity.
“Although this does not sound like a big drop in
the death rate, the impact of it is revealed when we compared low-,
moderate- and high-fit individuals to the least fit, who achieved less
or equal to four METs,” Kokkinos said.
Compared to least-fit men (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.
• High-fit men with peak METs of more than 8
reduced the risk of death by 48 percent.
“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.