A 25-year study of young adults transitioning to middle age revealed maintaining a healthy weight was more important in blood pressure control than four other health behaviors.
Specifically, participants who kept a body mass index of less than 25 kilograms per square meter were 41 percent less likely to have increasing blood pressure as they aged.
Researchers also analyzed the impacts of never smoking, zero to moderate alcohol consumption, exercising 150 minutes or more per week and eating a healthy diet in the 4,630 study participants. Results were presented Sept. 14 at the American Heart Association (AHA) Council on Hypertension, AHA Council on Kidney in Cardiovascular Disease, American Society of Hypertension Joint Scientific Sessions in San Francisco.
Never smoking and limiting alcohol consumption to seven or fewer drinks per week for women and 14 or fewer for men were associated with less of an increase in blood pressure, but the researchers said a larger study is needed to verify the relationship.
Maintaining physical activity and following a healthy diet weren’t independently associated with changes in blood pressure over the 25-year period. However, a researcher pointed out those factors play a role in sustaining a healthy weight.
“This data suggests that body weight is very important in terms of maintaining a normal blood pressure from early and into middle adulthood,” John N. Booth III, PhD, postdoctoral fellow of the AHA’s Strategically Focused Hypertension Research Network at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said in a statement.
“These results provide evidence that what we may want to do is focus on how we can create interventions that will enable individuals to maintain a normal body weight throughout their lifetimes. The other behaviors we studied may play an important role since they can influence body weight.”
Study participants were 18 to 30 years old when the trial began in 1985 and 1986. During the follow-up period, researchers measured blood pressure and assessed health behaviors eight times, until participants reached middle age.