Exercise for Healthy Blood Pressure
High blood pressure affects over 16 million people in the UK, according to the Blood Pressure Association.
Read on to discover why high blood pressure levels are dangerous, and how regular physical exercise can manage your blood pressure and keep your heart healthy. Exercise is one of the best natural cures for high blood pressure.
Blood pressure is the pressure of the blood in the arteries – the tubes which carry blood away from the heart to the rest of the body. When the heart contracts, it squeezes blood out into the arteries. The blood pressure in the arteries during the contraction is known as the systolic pressure. The heart then relaxes and fills with blood, ready for the next contraction. The lower blood pressure in the arteries at this point is known as the diastolic pressure. In a blood pressure reading, the first number is the systolic pressure, and the second one is the diastolic pressure.
Your target resting heart blood pressure should ideally be below T30/80, according to the British Heart Foundation. This is what is known as a healthy blood pressure level.
You have ‘high blood pressure’ (hypertension) if your blood pressure readings are constantly higher than recommended target levels. Hypertension develops if the walls of the arteries become more rigid (less elastic), and the smaller blood vessels become narrower. This makes it harder for blood to flow and the heart has to work harder to keep the blood moving. If high blood pressure continues, it places both the heart and the blood vessels under strain. This can lead to damage in various organs (from a decreased blood and oxygen supply), as well as stroke, heart attacks, heart failure, coronary heart disease, damaged eyesight and kidney failure. Reducing your blood pressure to below target levels can reduce the risk of all of these conditions.
In up to 95 per cent of patients with hypertension, the cause is unknown. Although a few patients with extremely high blood pressure may experience headaches or blurred vision, most people with hypertension do not have any symptoms, so it’s important to have your heart blood pressure checked regularly. This is particularly important if you’re of African, Caribbean or South Asian origin, or if you have a family history of high blood pressure, as these groups statistically have a higher risk of developing hypertension.
So, along with regular check-ups, what can you do to help lower your blood pressure and keep it at a healthy level?
Hypertension can be treated with various drugs, which relax the blood vessels, or reduce your heart rate. However, one of the most important treatments is a change in lifestyle. High blood pressure is associated with high sodium (salt), alcohol and protein intakes, and may be lowered with increased potassium, calcium and magnesium intakes. Try to eat enough potassium (from fruit and vegetables) and calcium, rather than over-restricting sodium.
The most important change you should make to your lifestyle is to increase your and aerobic physical activity levels, according to the experts. In a recent study, sedentary people showed the highest blood pressure readings, and were at a greater risk of developing hypertension. Moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise (such as walking, and ) performed every day for at least 30 minutes reduces blood pressure and keeps it at a healthy low level.
Adding physical exercise to a weight- loss programme in those who are obese (with a BMI greater than 25) can also lower blood pressure and the risk of coronary heart disease. You should also make sure you eat enough energy-rich foods to carry out exercise effectively. At least 45—65 per cent of your daily calorie intake should be carbohydrate-based for optimum energy provision. Fats should only comprise 25-30 per cent of your diet, and protein should comprise around 20 per cent; higher amounts of fats and protein may worsen your blood pressure.
There’s no association between carbohydrates and blood pressure. Your carbohydrate intake can come from a mixture of starchy foods (such as bread, pasta and potatoes) or sugar-based foods (such as muffins, energy bars or sports drinks). The sugar-based foods are pleasant-tasting, so will ensure you consume enough carbohydrate energy to keep you going during exercise.
So, to keep your blood pressure at a healthy level, remember to do the following, as they are all obvious and natural cures for high blood pressure:
- Have regular blood pressure check-ups.
- Don’t drink too much alcohol.
- Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables and keep up levels of calcium and magnesium.
- Do thirty minutes of vigorous aerobic physical activity daily.
- Eat enough carbohydrate (from starch- and sugar-based sources) to fuel physical activity.