Novel drug use could allow those with high blood pressure to exercise
The finding could mean that in the future, those suffering from very high blood pressure (BP) could exercise to bring down their BP naturally, rather than relying on medication.
Patients suffering with high BP are often prescribed regular exercise to lose weight and lessen the risk of developing serious cardiovascular disease such as stroke, heart attack or heart disease. The catch-22 however is that people with extremely high BP – hypertension – cannot exercise and instead have to rely on long-term medication to improve their health.
Dr Wanpen Vongpatanasin, lead author at the University of Texas Southwestern, said,
“Although regular exercise is recommended for patients with high blood pressure to reduce it GPs are not prescribing exercise to some, as their blood pressure can increase to dangerous levels. In some cases, posing a risk of stroke or even heart attack during exercise.
“Our research may have found a way around this. We have found that an existing drug appears to improve blood pressure not only at rest, but also during exercise. This means patients could exercise to naturally lower their blood pressure, reducing their dependence on medication in the long term.
“Exercise is important for those suffering with high BP – as their heart has to work harder to pump blood around the body, taking its toll on the heart and weakening it. Exercise such as running or walking is important to strengthen the heart and improve fitness.The initial response of the heart arteries are to contract under stress, for example when our bodies are active during exercise. “However, there is an important mechanism which overrides this when our heart rate increases. It allows the arteries to relax and extra blood to flow and feed the working muscles. This protective process is known ‘functional sympatholysis’.
“People with hypertension cannot exercise for prolonged periods as they are unable to override the constrictive process, it means they tire easily. It’s a particular problem for those in middle-age. It was not known until now that the existing BP lowering drug (an angiotensin receptor blocker) could have this effect during exercise also. It works by acting on angiotensin, a peptide that causes blood vessels to constrict. The next step will be to monitor how effective the drug is at controlling blood flow during long-term exercise studies. But at this stage, the results are encouraging”, added Vongpatanasin.