Dr Danielle Kirkman Discusses the Biological Relationship Between Exercise and Hypertension

December 10, 2019

Evidence suggests that exercise reduces blood pressure, and some of the mechanisms by which this occurs can include a reduction in salt sensitivity and effects on vascular structure, according to Danielle Kirkman, PhD, assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Evidence suggests that exercise reduces blood pressure, and some of the mechanisms by which this occurs can include a reduction in salt sensitivity and effects on vascular structure, according to Danielle Kirkman, PhD, assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Transcript

How does exercise affect hypertension, and what are the biological mechanisms?

There’s a wealth of research and a lot of evidence out there to suggest that exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, reduces blood pressure. There are several mechanisms by which this can occur; the biological mechanisms probably relate to a reduction in salt sensitivity, so that’s how much our blood pressure raises after we eat a high-sodium meal. Some data has shown that after an exercise intervention of about 6 months, our blood pressure raises less after a high-sodium meal, so that’s certainly one factor.

Other factors may be a reduction in the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, so this could certainly lead to less vasoconstriction and a blood pressure­­­—lowering effect. In addition to that, we know that exercise certainly has beneficial effects on the vascular structure and function, so this could certainly contribute to reducing hypertension. And then finally, we know that exercise is a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, so by reducing inflammation and reducing oxidative stress, this could slowly lead to a reduction in blood pressure.