Exercise and blood pressure

Stan did everything right.

He followed the Track Your Plaque "Rule of 60". He was slender, had run a marathon a few months earlier, in fact. He included fish oil at therapeutic doses. He replenished vitamin D to a blood level of 57 ng/ml 25-OH-vitamin D3. Though ambitious and hard-working, he was a generally happy, optimistic person.

Yet his CT heart scan score increased 28% in one year, from a starting score of 379 to 485.

What did he do wrong?

Well, Stan did nothing wrong. But I suggested to him that one "hole" in his program could be exercise-induced high blood pressure. I've witnessed this effect many times. Blood pressure normal or "borderline" high while seated and relaxed, sky-high with exercise.

So we put Stan on a treadmill. Starting blood pressure: 123/76. Blood pressure with exericse (13 mets): 220/78--sky high. That's why Stan's heart scan score went up. A good pressure with this level of exercise: 150/70, but certainly no higher than 170/80.

If blood pressure is high with exercise, it's probably high with emotional upset, anxiety, being in a hurry, etc., also, all the irritations and pressures of life.

We'll see in future how much of a role reducing Stan's blood pressure will play in gaining better control over his heart scan score. A practical difficulty will be in assessing the adequacy of blood pressure control in Stan, since its full potential only becomes evident with exerise. It means that future blood pressure assessments are more likely to be on a treadmill.

It would also explain why Stan's thoracic aorta was mildly enlarged and his aortic valve was mildly leaky when I met him, both potential consequences of intermittent high blood pressure.