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Just 30-minutes walk can improve blood pressure in women with arthritis

IANS Jan 18, 2024

A 30-minute walk at moderate intensity temporarily reduced blood pressure in women with rheumatoid arthritis, not only at rest but also under stress, according to a study.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune inflammatory disease affecting synovial joints and causing pain, swelling, and progressive physical incapacity. People with rheumatoid arthritis also tend to have high blood pressure, and previous research has shown that the risk of death from cardiovascular disease is 50 per cent higher for them than for the general population.

BP is also known to rise in rheumatoid arthritis patients in response to mental stress, physical effort, and pain, contributing to the high risk of cardiovascular complications of the disease.

The study "shows that exercise prevented a rise in blood pressure," among women with rheumatoid arthritis, said Tiago Pecanha, a researcher at the University of Sao Paulo’s (USP) Medical School (FM-USP) in Brazil.

In a 24-hour monitoring test, the team showed that exercise lowered systolic pressure by 5 mmHg on average.

"This amount of reduction is significant, correlating with a 14 per cent lower risk of death from stroke, a 9 per cent lower risk of death from coronary arterial disease, and a 7 per cent lower risk of all-cause death for people with hypertension," Pecanha explained.

In the study, published in the Journal of Human Hypertension, the team analysed 20 women volunteers aged between 20 and 65 and diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and hypertension.

The women were first involved in a pre-intervention measurement of blood pressure and heart rate at rest and in response to different types of stress.

In the second session, a randomly selected group walked at moderate speed on a treadmill for 30 minutes, while a control group stood on the treadmill for 30 minutes without performing any exercise. Both groups had their blood pressure measured before and after the session.

After exercise or rest, they took tests involving stress (a cognitive stress test and a pain tolerance test) that could affect their blood pressure.

Systolic blood pressure remained stable in all 20 women before and immediately after the treadmill session but was higher in the measurements made while they were resting.

"The temporary effect of just one aerobic exercise session is very important since acute reductions in blood pressure on several consecutive days are expected to accumulate and lead to a sustained reduction over time, contributing to better control of hypertension in rheumatoid arthritis," Pecanha said.

On the day of the 30-minute walk, systolic pressure fell by 1 mmHg on average. On the day when they remained at rest, it rose by 4 mmHg.

Pecanha said that the findings can also be applied to other autoimmune inflammatory diseases, such as lupus, psoriatic arthritis, inflammatory myopia, and juvenile lupus.

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