Hypertension in master endurance athletes

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Abstract

Objective

To determine whether long-term very vigorous endurance training prevents hypertension.

Design

Cohort study of master orienteering runners and controls.

Setting

Finland.

Subjects and methods

In 1995, a health questionnaire was completed by 264 male orienteering runners (response rate 90.4%) who had been top-ranked in competitions among men aged 35–59 years in 1984, and by 388 similarly aged male controls (response rate 87.1%) who were healthy at the age of 20 years and free of overt ischemic heart disease in 1985.

Main outcome measure

Self-report of medication for hypertension.

Results

In the endurance athlete group, the crude prevalence (8.7%) of subjects who had used medication for hypertension was less than a third of that in the control group (27.8%). Even after adjusting for age and body mass index, the difference between the groups was still significant (odds ratio for athletes 0.43, 95% confidence interval 0.25–0.76).

Conclusions

Long-term vigorous endurance training is associated with a low prevalence of hypertension. Some of the effect can be explained by a lower body mass, but exercise seems to induce a lower rate of hypertension by other mechanisms than by decreasing body weight.

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