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BLOOMINGTON — People with high fitness levels are less likely to develop hypertension (high blood pressure), according to research in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

"If you're exercising and you're fit, your chances of developing hypertension are much less than someone else who has the same characteristics but isn't fit," said Dr. Mouaz H. Al-Mallah, study author and cardiologist at the Henry Ford Heart and Vascular Institute in Detroit. "Increasing exercise and fitness levels probably protects against many diseases."

More than 57,000 participants in the Henry Ford Exercise Testing Project in 1991 to 2009 were referred for a treadmill stress test because they experienced chest pain or shortness of breath. Researchers found that people who performed at the highest fitness levels on the stress test had a 20 percent less chance of developing high blood pressure over the next five years.

"This is a clear message to everyone: It is very important to be fit," Al-Mallah said.

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