Wayne State University has received a $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the negative effects of strenuous exercise on people with high levels of blood pressure.
Donal O’Leary, a professor of physiology and the director of cardiovascular research at Wayne State, who helped secure the four-year funding, says exercise in hypertensive patients can often produce significant increases in sympathetic nerve activity, causing increases in arterial pressure and heart rate, increasing the probability of heart attack and stroke.
O’Leary’s study will focus on determining the role of one of the principal mediators of the response to cardiovascular exercise, as well as how the responses are protected. He has developed an instrumented animal model that allows continuous beat-by-beat monitoring to assess the strength and mechanisms of cardiovascular reflexes at rest and during exercise.
He says the results may aid in developing exercise programs for hypertensive patients without pushing them to the threat of cardiovascular failure or stroke, and increase understanding of the impact of hypertension on neural control of circulation “during one of the greatest challenges to cardiovascular control — whole body strenuous dynamic exercise.”
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects nearly one in three adults in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.