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Muscle Helps You Regulate Blood Pressure Better

If you want to get a head start on your list of New Year's resolutions by losing weight and starting an exercise program, a new study demonstrates the importance of muscle over fat when it comes to regulating blood pressure. People who have more muscle can better regulate their blood pressure in response to stress than those who are overweight.

Why? Having more fat impairs your body's ability to excrete sodium, the main mechanism for dropping blood pressure back to normal.

Previous studies have made an unusual link between lean body mass and higher blood pressure in adults and children. And researchers who began analyzing data for this new study, on how 127 young patients with normal blood pressure respond to stress, came to the same conclusion. Due to the body's natural fight-or-flight mechanism that circulates more blood and oxygen during stress, however, blood pressures normally DO go up, which isn't a bad thing.

But, after researchers looked at the percentages of fat and lean tissue on study participants and their ability to excrete sodium, they discovered those with more fat had were less capable of doing so.

Fat, especially abdominal fat, secretes angiotensin which makes angiotensin II, a powerful vasoconstrictor that also directs the kidneys to absorb more sodium so blood vessels retain more fluid volume, scientists said.

Researchers measured the blood pressure of study participants every 15 minutes throughout a two-hour baseline period, an hour of competitive video games and a two-hour recovery period. While blood pressure increased an appropriate average of 5 percent in response to the stress of video games, participants who had more lean muscle mass than fat were better able to return to normal levels through this sodium excretion process called natriuresis.

EurekAlert November 23, 2004

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