"While there are many hypertension medications effective at lowering blood pressure at rest, very few are effective during exercise," said Dr. Wanpen Vongpatanasin, associate professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern and lead author of the study. "People with high blood pressure" need to exercise not only to help their blood pressure, but also their overall cardiovascular health."
Vongpatanasin and colleagues had 13 participants with mild hypertension and 13 with normal blood pressure perform hand grip exercises under regular conditions, followed by activity under conditions that affect a part of the nervous system that controls blood pressure.
They found increased nerve activity in hypertensive participants during exercise but not in those with normal blood pressure. Blood flow and oxygen levels in the arm muscles also fell more rapidly in the hypertensive group.
"Hypertensive patients have increased nerves and impaired ability to maintain muscle blood flow adequately,” Vongpatanasin said.
Researchers then treated study participants with two types of blood pressure medications. An angiotensin receptor blocker, which prevents the hormone angiotensin from increasing blood pressure, increased blood flow during exercise. A diuretic that reduces blood pressure by stimulating sodium loss did not.
"Since nerve increases weren''t reduced during treatment, we believe the angiotensin receptor blocker works directly on blood vessels to improve blood flow," Vongpatanasin concluded.
The study has been published in the March issue of the Journal of Physiology.