Systolic Blood Pressure Response to Exercise in Endurance Athletes in Relation to Oxygen Uptake, Work Rate and Normative Values

Carlen A; Eklund G; Andersson A; Carlhall C: Ekstrom M; Hedman K

Journal of Cardiovascular Development and Disease: Volume 9. Issue 7. 2022

Work rate has a direct impact on the systolic blood pressure (SBP) during aerobic exercise, which may be challenging in the evaluation of the SBP response in athletes reaching high work rates. We aimed to investigate the exercise SBP response in endurance athletes in relation to oxygen uptake (VO2), work rate and to recent reference equations for exercise SBP in the general population. Endurance athletes with a left-ventricular end-diastolic diameter above the reference one performed a maximal bicycle cardiopulmonary exercise test. The increase in SBP during exercise was divided by the increase in VO2 (SBP/VO2 slope) and in Watts, respectively (SBP/W slope). The maximum SBP (SBPmax) and the SBP/W slope were compared to the predicted values. In total, 27 athletes (59% men) were included; mean age, 40 ± 10 years; mean VO2max, 50 ± 5 mL/kg/min. The mean SBP/VO2 slope was 29.8 ± 10.2 mm Hg/L/min, and the mean SBP/W slope was 0.27 ± 0.08 mm Hg/W. Compared to the predicted normative values, athletes had, on average, a 12.2 ± 17.6 mm Hg higher SBPmax and a 0.12 ± 0.08 mm Hg/W less steep SBP/W slope (p < 0.01 and p < 0.001, respectively). In conclusion, the higher SBPmax values and the less steep SBP/W slope highlight the importance of considering work rate when interpreting the SBP response in endurance athletes and suggest a need for specific normative values in athletes to help clinicians distinguish physiologically high maximal blood pressure from a pathological blood pressure response.