Blood pressure reductions with exercise and sodium restriction in postmenopausal women with elevated systolic pressure: role of arterial stiffness

J Am Coll Cardiol. 2001 Aug;38(2):506-13. doi: 10.1016/s0735-1097(01)01348-1.


Objectives: This study determined the relative efficacy of aerobic exercise (daily walking) and moderate dietary sodium restriction (sodium intake <100 mmol/day) for reducing systolic blood pressure (SBP) and pulse pressure (PP) in postmenopausal women with elevated initial levels, and the potential role of reductions in large artery stiffness in these changes.

Background: Lifestyle behaviors are recommended for lowering blood pressure (BP) in adults with elevated baseline levels, but there is little information as to the relative efficacy of different interventions or the mechanisms underlying their potential beneficial effects.

Methods: After baseline measurements and random assignment, 35 nonmedicated healthy postmenopausal women with SBP between 130 and 159 mm Hg completed three months of either aerobic (walking) exercise (n = 18; 62 +/- 9 years, mean +/- SD) or moderate dietary sodium restriction (SR) (n = 17; 65 +/- 10 years, mean +/- SD).

Results: Body mass and composition, plasma volume, and fasting concentrations of metabolic coronary risk factors did not differ between the groups at baseline or change with intervention. Systolic BP and PP at rest decreased with both exercise and SR (p < 0.05); however, the reductions were three- to fourfold greater with SR (p < 0.05). Sodium restriction, but not exercise, also reduced 24-h SBP and PP (p < 0.05). Aortic pulse wave velocity (PWV) and carotid augmentation index were reduced only with SR (p < 0.05). Changes in SBP and PP at rest and over 24 h correlated with the corresponding changes in aortic PWV (r = 0.53 to 0.61, p < 0.01).

Conclusions: Moderate SR lowers SBP and PP in postmenopausal women with elevated baseline levels more than does daily walking. The greater blood pressure reductions with SR may be mediated in part by a decrease in the stiffness of the large elastic arteries.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Arteries / physiopathology*
  • Blood Pressure*
  • Diet, Sodium-Restricted*
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / diet therapy
  • Hypertension / physiopathology
  • Hypertension / therapy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Postmenopause*
  • Systole