Health And Wellness

AHA: Sit less to lower mildly high blood pressure, cholesterol

By Kiersten Willis, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Troy Warren


The American Heart Association say more exercise is the first step to treat hypertension

Before taking medication or adjusting diet, the American Heart Association says adults with mild to moderate hypertension and high cholesterol should get moving.

More exercise is recommended as the first step to treat these conditions in adults with otherwise low heart disease risk. The AHA announced this in a June 2 scientific statement published in the journal Hypertension.

“The current American Heart Association guidelines for diagnosing high blood pressure and cholesterol recognize that otherwise healthy individuals with mildly or moderately elevated levels of these cardiovascular risk factors should actively attempt to reduce these risks. The first treatment strategy for many of these patients should be healthy lifestyle changes beginning with increasing physical activity,” said Bethany Barone Gibbs, Ph.D., chair of the statement writing group and associate professor in the department of health and human development and clinical and translational sciences at the University of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

People with a blood pressure of 120-139 mm Hg/80-89 mm Hg meet the criteria for lifestyle-only blood pressure treatment. The American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association High Blood Pressure Guideline outlines these standards for people with otherwise low heart disease or stroke risk.

It’s estimated that 21% of U.S. adults meet that criteria. Meanwhile, an estimated 28% of U.S. adults, have an LDL cholesterol score over 70 mg/dL and a low risk of heart disease or stroke. Such adults would meet the 2018 AHA/ACC Cholesterol Treatment Guidelinescriteria for lifestyle-only treatment. These include more physical activity, weight loss, diet improvements, smoking cessation and reducing alcohol consumption.

“Increasing physical activity can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, along with many other health benefits,” Gibbs said. Such benefits include improved sleep, lowered risk of certain cancers and boosted brain and bone health.

An analysis of 36 studies showed physically active people have a 21% lower risk of developing heart disease, according to the statement. They also have a 36% lower death risk from heart diseases compared to physically inactive people.

Last year, the World Health Organization updated its guidelines to recommend that adults between ages 18 to 64 should get “at least 150–300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity.” This deviated from AHA’s recommendations of 150 minutes of weekly moderate-intensity aerobic activity.

Still, benefits can be seen even with a small amount of physical activity.

“Every little bit of activity is better than none,” Gibbs said. “Even small initial increases of 5 to 10 minutes a day can yield health benefits.”