A new study from The Physiological Society has found that genetics can influence how the heart responds to exercise. An individual’s heart rate and blood pressure during physical activity may provide early warning signs of future issues with the heart or blood vessels.
People experience an increase in heart rate and blood pressure when they exercise, but the extent of this increase varies among different individuals. The reason for this variation has been unclear, but the new study provides evidence that genetic differences in receptors across skeletal muscles make a significant contribution.
Previous research has found that abnormally large spikes in blood pressure during exercise are a strong predictor of high blood pressure later in life. It is important to understand why people react differently to exercise in order to identify risk factors, which could lead to early monitoring and treatment for future issues.
Researchers at the University of Guelph in Canada measured the heart rate and blood pressure of 200 healthy young men and women before and during a handgrip exercise. The DNA of the individuals was also evaluated for genetic risk factors.
The scientists determined that the presence of two common genetic mutations in skeletal muscle receptors led to higher blood pressure during exercise compared to people who did not have them. The effect was found to be particularly strong in men.
“This research suggests the presence of these receptors can contribute to larger blood pressure responses during exercise – a risk factor for future problems with the heart or blood vessels,” said study co-author Philip J. Millar. “It is important to examine why we saw this difference mainly in men, and to understand the specific mechanisms behind how these genetic variants influence their heart rate and blood pressure responses to exercise.”
The study is published in The Journal of Physiology.