BACKGROUND: Hypertension is an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The latest guidelines recommend regular physical exercise as initial step or adjunct in the treatment of hypertension. We investigated the association between physical activity and the degree of hypertension, as well as the relation to indices of endothelial damage/dysfunction and angiogenesis. METHODS: We studied 234 patients with hypertension (198 males; mean age 64 years; mean blood pressure 166/90 mmHg), who were compared with 60 age and sex-matched healthy normotensive controls. We assessed the patient's physical activity using the validated Baecke physical activity questionnaire and measured flow-mediated dilatation (FMD) of the brachial artery and von Willebrand factor (vWf) as indices of endothelial damage/dysfunction, whilst angiogenesis was assessed by measurement of plasma vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and its soluble receptor (sFlt-1) both by ELISA. RESULTS: When hypertensive patients were compared with the controls, there was no statistically significant difference in total physical activity score using the Baecke questionnaire although plasma VEGF and vWf levels were higher, but sFlt-1 levels and FMD lower (all P <0.001). Patients with high physical activity were younger, and had lower mean diastolic blood pressure and 10-year Framingham stroke risk, when compared with those with low physical activity; but indices of endothelial damage/dysfunction and angiogenesis were not significantly different. CONCLUSION: Physical activity scores in hypertensive patients are not significantly different from healthy normotensive controls, and there appears to be no relation to the abnormal processes of endothelial damage/dysfunction and angiogenesis seen in hypertensives.
- von Willebrand factor
- vascular endothelial growth factor
- endothelial damage