Objective: To determine the peak blood pressure responses during symptom-limited exercise in a large sample of apparently healthy subjects, including both men and women over a wide range of ages.
Design: We retrospectively studied the blood pressure response during maximal treadmill exercise testing with use of the Bruce protocol in apparently healthy subjects.
Material and methods: Peak exercise blood pressures in 7,863 male and 2,406 female apparently healthy subjects who underwent a screening treadmill exercise test with the Bruce protocol between 1988 and 1992 were analyzed by age and gender.
Results: In this large referral population of apparently healthy subjects, peak exercise systolic and diastolic blood pressures and delta systolic blood pressure (rest to peak exercise) were higher in men than in women and were positively associated with age. In men, the 90th percentile of systolic blood pressure increased from 210 mm Hg for the age decade 20 to 29 years to 234 mm Hg for ages 70 to 79 years; the corresponding increase among women was from 180 mm Hg to 220 mm Hg. Delta diastolic blood pressure also increased with advancing age. The difference in peak and delta systolic blood pressures between men and women seemed to decrease after age 40 to 49 years. Exercise hypotension, defined as peak exercise systolic pressure less than rest systolic pressure, occurred in 0.23% of men and 1.45% of women and was not significantly related to age.
Conclusion: Overall, peak exercise systolic and diastolic, as well as delta systolic, blood pressures were higher in men than in women and increased with advancing age. The reported data will enable clinicians to interpret more accurately the significance of peak exercise blood pressure response in a subject of a specific age and gender and will allow investigators to define exercise hypertension in statistical terms stratified by age and gender.