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Hypertension in master endurance athletes

Hernelahti, Miika1,4; Kujala, Urho M.1; Kaprio, Jaakko2; Karjalainen, Jouko3; Sarna, Seppo2

Original article

Objective To determine whether long-term very vigorous endurance training prevents hypertension.

Design Cohort study of master orienteering runners and controls.

Setting Finland.

Subjects and methods In 1995, a health questionnaire was completed by 264 male orienteering runners (response rate 90.4%) who had been top-ranked in competitions among men aged 35–59 years in 1984, and by 388 similarly aged male controls (response rate 87.1%) who were healthy at the age of 20 years and free of overt ischemic heart disease in 1985.

Main outcome measure Self-report of medication for hypertension.

Results In the endurance athlete group, the crude prevalence (8.7%) of subjects who had used medication for hypertension was less than a third of that in the control group (27.8%). Even after adjusting for age and body mass index, the difference between the groups was still significant (odds ratio for athletes 0.43, 95% confidence interval 0.25–0.76).

Conclusions Long-term vigorous endurance training is associated with a low prevalence of hypertension. Some of the effect can be explained by a lower body mass, but exercise seems to induce a lower rate of hypertension by other mechanisms than by decreasing body weight.

1Unit for Sports and Exercise Medicine, Institute of Biomedicine, University of Helsinki, Finland

2Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki, Finland.

3Central Military Hospital, Helsinki, Finland.

4Correspondence and requests for reprints to Dr Miika Hernelahti, Unit for Sports and Exercise Medicine, Mannerheimintie 17 (Töölö Sports Hall), FIN-00250 Helsinki, Finland.

Tel: +358 9 4342100; Fax: +358 9 490 809


Sponsorship: This study was financially supported by the Finnish Ministry of Education.

Received 6 November 1997 Revised 27 March 1998 Accepted 2 July 1998

© 1998 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.