If you have high blood pressure, you can take steps to lower it by walking more every day, new research suggests.
In the study, researchers analyzed data from about 640 adults who participated in the Framingham Heart Study, which focuses on heart disease risk factors and has been ongoing for more than 70 years.
Participants were asked to wear smart watches that tracked the number of steps they took each day, and to record their blood pressure once a week.
During the experiment, participants' average systolic blood pressure was 122 mm Hg and average diastolic blood pressure was 76 mm Hg, levels considered normal to slightly elevated.
Systolic blood pressure, the top number in a reading, measures the force of blood against your arteries when your heart beats. Diastolic pressure is the level between beats.
Over about five months, participants averaged roughly 7,500 steps per day. Those with a higher daily step count had significantly lower blood pressure.
After accounting for other factors, the researchers found that systolic blood pressure was about 0.45 points lower for every 1,000 daily steps taken. That means someone logging 10,000 steps a day would have a systolic reading 2.25 points lower than someone averaging 5,000 steps.
This could make the difference between normal systolic blood pressure (less than 120 mm Hg) and an elevated reading, according to the study.
The link between daily step count and blood pressure was no longer significant when body mass index (BMI) was taken into account, however. The study authors said that suggests BMI -- an estimate of body fat based on weight and height -- may affect the association between daily steps and blood pressure.
"This study solidifies our understanding of the relationship between physical activity and blood pressure, and raises the possibility that obesity or body mass index accounts for a lot of that relationship," said lead author Dr. Mayank Sardana, a clinical fellow at the University of California, San Francisco.
"Going forward, it would be useful to look at how smart devices might be leveraged to promote physical activity, reduce the burden of obesity and potentially reduce blood pressure," Sardana said in a news release from the American College of Cardiology.
The findings are to be presented at an online meeting of the American College of Cardiology/World Congress of Cardiology, taking place March 28 to 30. Research presented at meetings is typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlines how to prevent high blood pressure.