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Am J Epidemiol. 1983 Mar;117(3):245-57.

Physical activity and incidence of hypertension in college alumni.


In a study population of 14,998 Harvard male alumni, 681 hypertensives were first diagnosed during a 6-10-year follow-up beginning 16-50 years after college entrance. The study comprised 105,662 man-years of observation of these men who had entered college in 1916-1950, and who were followed from 1962 or 1966 to 1972. Presence or absence of a background of collegiate sports did not influence risk of hypertension in this study population, nor did stair-climbing, walking, or light sports play by alumni. But, alumni who did not engage in vigorous sports play were at 35% greater risk of hypertension than those who did, and this relationship held at all ages, 35-74 years. Higher levels of body mass index, weight gain since college, history of parental hypertension, and lack of strenuous exercise independently predicted increased risk of hypertension in alumni. Men 20% or more over ideal weight-for-height were at 78% greater risk than lighter men. Those who had gained 25+ lbs (c. 11.5+ kg) since entering college were at 60% greater risk than those who had gained less. Alumni with a hypertensive parent were at 83% higher risk than men without such parentage. Contemporary vigorous exercise was inversely related to hypertension risk, but chiefly among alumni overweight-for-height. In the clinical sense, attributable risk estimates ranged from 30% to nearly 50% for the alumni characteristics of overweight, weight gain, parental hypertension, and lack of vigorous exercise. In the community sense, attributable risk of these same characteristics ranged 13-26%. To sum up, vigorous exercise is associated with lower hypertension incidence, and, without necessarily altering body weight-for-height, avoids or reduces fat and promotes muscle; obesity, rather than excess weight-for-height, is associated with higher hypertension incidence; hence, vigorous exercise is appropriate for use as an intervention regimen in the prevention of hypertension.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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