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Hypertension. 1999 Jan;33(1 Pt 2):591-7.

Daily aerobic exercise improves reactive hyperemia in patients with essential hypertension.

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First Department of Internal Medicine, Hiroshima University School of Medicine, Japan.


The effects of long-term aerobic exercise on endothelial function in patients with essential hypertension remain unclear. To determine whether endothelial function relating to forearm hemodynamics in these patients differs from normotensive subjects and whether endothelial function can be modified by continued physical exercise, we randomized patients with essential hypertension into a group that engaged in 30 minutes of brisk walking 5 to 7 times weekly for 12 weeks (n=20) or a group that underwent no activity modifications (control group, n=7). Forearm blood flow was measured using strain-gauge plethysmography during reactive hyperemia to test for endothelium-dependent vasodilation and after sublingual nitroglycerin administration to test endothelium-independent vasodilation. Forearm blood flow in hypertensive patients during reactive hyperemia was significantly less than that in normotensive subjects (n=17). Increases in forearm blood flow after nitroglycerin were similar between hypertensive and normotensive subjects. Exercise lowered mean blood pressure from 115.7+/-5.3 to 110.2+/-5.1 mm Hg (P<0.01) and forearm vascular resistance from 25.6+/-3.2 to 23. 2+/-2.8 mm Hg/mL per minute per 100 mL tissue (P<0.01); no change occurred in controls. Basal forearm blood flow, body weight, and heart rate did not differ with exercise. After 12 weeks of exercise, maximal forearm blood flow response during reactive hyperemia increased significantly, from 38.4+/-4.6 to 47.1+/-4.9 mL/min per 100 mL tissue (P<0.05); this increase was not seen in controls. Changes in forearm blood flow after sublingual nitroglycerin administration were similar before and after 12 weeks of exercise. Intra-arterial infusion of the nitric oxide synthase inhibitor NG-monomethyl-L-arginine abolished the enhancement of reactive hyperemia induced by 12 weeks of exercise. These findings suggest that through increased release of nitric oxide, continued physical exercise alleviates impairment of reactive hyperemia in patients with essential hypertension.

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