Tuesday, October 16, 2007

High Blood Pressure and Exercise

According to the CDC, between the years of 1999-2002, 30.6% of all women and 28.8% of men in the U.S. were taking medication to lower blood pressure.

More statistics from The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute :

*More than 72 million American adults — 1 in 3 — have high blood pressure

*Nearly 60 million Americans are over age 55 which means they have a 90 percent likelihood of developing high blood pressure in their lifetimes.

*20 million Americans have diabetes which increases their chances of developing high blood pressure.

*142 million American adults are overweight or obese which increases their chances of developing high blood pressure.

NHLBI also lists the reasons why those with high blood pressure (140/90 or greater)
should be concerned:

*High blood pressure is a factor in 67 percent of heart attacks in the United States.

*High blood pressure is a factor in 77 percent of strokes—the #3 cause of death in the United States.

*High blood pressure precedes 74 percent of cases of heart failure in the United States.

*High blood pressure is the second leading cause of chronic kidney failure in the United States—responsible for 26 percent of all cases.

*High blood pressure causes more visits to doctors than any other condition—just a 10 percent decline in the number of visits would save $450 million each year.

*High blood pressure affects circulation—creating a higher risk for mental deterioration and Alzheimer's.

Besides diet, physical activity plays an extremely important role in the management of this damaging condition. ANYBODY TAKING PRESCRIPTION MEDICATION FOR HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE THAT IS NOT GETTING 30 MINUTES OF PHYSICAL ACTIVITY ON MOST DAYS OF THE WEEK (unless under the direction of a physician) should re-evaluate their priorities (like how important is it to stay alive!). It's that important, and it's not that difficult.

According to mayoclinic.com, regular activity can lower systolic blood pressure by an average of 10 mm of mercury, the same as some blood pressure medications. A stonger, more efficient heart, improved circulation (less resistance to blood flow), better management of stress, and weight loss are some of the obvious ways that regular exercise can impact high blood pressure.

Always seek the advice of a physician prior to starting exercise, especially if you have any existing medical conditions or cardiovascular risk factors and you are unaccustomed to working out. Mayclinic.com offers the following advice before getting started. See a doctor first if...

1. you are a male over 40 or female over 50
2. you smoke
3. you are overweight or obese
4. you have another chronic condition such as high cholesterol
5. you have a family history of heart-related problems before age 55 (parent or
6. you feel pain in your chest or become dizzy with effort
7. you are not sure of your health status

Regardless, you should always start easy- for some that may be as little as 1-2 minutes at a time with rest intervals sandwiched in between, not letting yourself get winded. As you get stronger, the length of your exercise intervals (walk, stationary bike, swim, or any other activity of an aerobic nature that you enjoy) can gradually increase until you can keep moving for 30 minutes continuously. Those who are able to continue will notice significant changes in the way they feel after just a few short months. And a lower blood pressure (keep in mind that what and how much you are eating is also very important). Later, for additional benefits you can add weight training, using relatively light weights and a high number of repetitions (20 or more).

One final note- if you don't know your blood pressure, have it checked! High blood pressure usually has no symptoms until it is too late!

(c) Dave Elger, 2007. All rights reserved.

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