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We know that the risk of developing hypertension increases when one of your parents is affected with the disease. Even if your father or mother had high blood pressure your own risk may be dramatically lower if you’re in good shape.
A study published online May 14, 2012 in Hypertension found that exercise can trump heredity and vastly reduce the risk of high blood pressure. Investigators in Dallas followed a group of more than 6,000 adults aged 20 to 80 years old for 4.7 years.
When they joined the study, the participants were all healthy with no indication of high blood pressure, and all were capable of exercising at 85 percent or more of their age-predicted maximal heart rate. During the study, 1,545 of the participants developed hypertension.
The investigators found that regardless of family history, the risk of developing high blood pressure was 42 percent lower in the participants whose fitness levels were highest. They also noted the combination of a low fitness level and a parent with hypertension meant a 70 percent higher risk of developing hypertension. The participants who were highly fit and had an affected parent had only a 16 percent higher risk than participants who were fit and had no parental history.