Step It Up: Higher Daily Step Counts Linked With Lower Blood Pressure

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In the electronic Framingham Heart Study presented at ACC.20/WCC, people who took more steps daily, as tracked by their smartwatch, had lower blood pressure on average than those taking fewer steps.

As part of the Framingham Heart Study, researchers analyzed data from 638 study participants who were asked to wear an Apple Watch daily and record their blood pressure at home weekly. After accounting for demographic factors, the study found participants' systolic blood pressure was about 0.45 points lower for every 1,000 daily steps taken, meaning that a person taking 10,000 steps daily would have a systolic blood pressure 2.25 points lower than a person taking just 5,000 steps daily, on average.

Given that study participants had an average systolic blood pressure of 122 mm Hg, this amount could make the difference between blood pressure that is considered normal or elevated. Although the study was observational and does not show cause and effect, the findings align with previous research suggesting that being more physically active can help lower blood pressure.

Mayank Sardana, MD, the study's lead author says, "This study solidifies our understanding of the relationship between physical activity and blood pressure and raises the possibility that obesity or body mass index accounts for a lot of that relationship."

Researchers excluded data from participants with less than 30 days of wear time, along with any data from the days on which the watch was worn for less than five hours. Over the course of about five months, participants averaged about 7,500 steps per day. Those with a higher daily step count had significantly lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure. In a secondary analysis, the researchers found the association between step count and blood pressure was no longer significant if BMI was taken into account, which suggests BMI might be a mediating factor in the relationship. However, the study was not designed to discern whether BMI affects step count or the other way around.

The electronic Framingham Heart Study cohort is the largest sample of participants developed leveraging the seminal Framingham Heart Study who are providing continuous data from smart devices for research. Their findings support the role of leveraging the data from wearable devices in epidemiology research to enhance the understanding of the relationship between cardiovascular risk factors and cardiovascular disease.

"Going forward, it would be useful to look at how smart devices might be leveraged to promote physical activity, reduce the burden of obesity and potentially reduce blood pressure," says Sardana.

Keywords: acc20, ACC Annual Scientific Session, Body Mass Index, Blood Pressure, Risk Factors, Blood Pressure Determination, Obesity, Systole, Longitudinal Studies, Exercise


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