High blood pressure, aka HBP or hypertension, is a condition in which the force of blood inside your vessels remains consistently high. It’s typically genetic and hereditary but is also caused by inactivity, stimulants or high-sodium diet and raises two types of pressure in your blood system:
systolic, when your heart pumps blood into your system
diastolic, when your heart rests between beats.
With time, HBP can lead to damage of the arteries and heart, along with chronic heart disease, stroke and other extremely dangerous conditions.
Does being active help blood pressure?
One of the best ways to lower your blood pressure or avoid having HBP in the first place is to be physically active. Though there may be limits on the kinds of exercises you can perform with high blood pressure, exercise helps strengthen your heart for a drug-free approach to reducing HBP.
How can I exercise with high blood pressure?
Though exercise is good for high blood pressure, exercising with high blood pressure isn’t always safe. Granted, it’s unlikely you’ll want to start with intense exercise, such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to begin with, though just to be sure, it should be avoided until you work up to it.
For now, exercises that are fun for you and are performed at no higher intensity than allows you to hold a conversation are what you need. This means exercise that gets your heart and breath rates up but doesn’t leave you gasping for breath.
These may include:
- Exercise classes
There are also three types of exercise that all have their own benefits, with aerobic exercise being perhaps the best for your cardiovascular health. In fact, it’s often referred to as “cardio exercise” for its benefits to your cardiovascular system.
The other two types of exercise are strength training and stretching, both of which have benefits of their own.
For instance, strength training is good for your bone and joint health and can help you burn more calories, while stretching helps keep you flexible and injury-free. Though neither are as beneficial as aerobic exercise for your cardiovascular health, one type you may also consider is yoga, which combines stretching, balance exercises and the blood pressure-lowering benefits of relaxation.
Above all, the key to getting enough exercise is finding an activity that works your cardiovascular system and is fun for you. If you enjoy cycling, for instance, going out for a bike ride may not even seem like exercise, though it still provides the same benefits as other exercises you may not care for as much. Doing it along with a friend not only makes it even more fun, but it also helps you commit to exercising regularly.
The important thing is that you get around 30 minutes per day, five days per week, of moderate, heart-healthy exercise. Even if you fall short, don’t stress, since for one thing, stress raises your blood pressure, and for another, anything is better than nothing!
What if I have trouble standing or walking?
While exercise such as walking or dancing is best for relieving high blood pressure, not everyone can easily stand or walk, which is where chair exercises come in. Chair-based exercises are simple to perform at home and don’t require any special equipment more than a chair with arm rests, though you may be able to work up to adding stretch bands and/or light weights too.
But mostly, chair exercises are simple ways to work your heart while sitting down. For instance, from an upright seated position, push both your hands forward at shoulder height while keeping your wrists extended before returning them to the armrests and repeating. Do this four to five times to start or as many times as you feel comfortable. Rest and repeat.
What are some other tips for helping high blood pressure?
Beyond exercise, there’s a few other things you can do to help maintain a healthy blood pressure.
- Lose weight. Being overweight is directly associated with high blood pressure, which is one of the many reasons to maintain a healthy weight.
- Eat right. A whole foods diet that doesn’t skimp on the fresh fruits, veggies and heart-healthy fats (think olive oil, nuts and fresh, wild-caught fish) can not only help lower your blood pressure, but it also helps you keep the weight off.
- Go easy on the salt and caffeine Two things commonly found in our diets are salt and caffeine, both of which can raise your blood pressure. Though you don’t need to stop using them entirely, moderation is key.
- Quit smoking! OK, do we really need to remind you that, along with all the MANY dangers of smoking, it elevates your blood pressure? Plus, quitting smoking will help you live longer, be more popular and even look better with better skin health.
- Stress not only raises your blood pressure, but it also leads to cravings for salty snacks and weight gain. Try spending time in nature, doing yoga or exercising for healthy stress relief.
When should you call your doctor?
While your doctor will monitor your blood pressure during regular checkups, it’s also a good idea to monitor it at home. Your doctor can tell how to use a monitor, and they’re available without a prescription at most medical device stores. This will enable you to know when your blood pressure is too high, which is also time to see your doctor.
You should also see your doctor if you experience dizziness, chest pains, lightheadedness or pain and pressure in your jaw, neck, arm or shoulder, especially if they don’t go away quickly.
What questions should you ask your doctor?
High blood pressure is a dangerous condition, and the more information you have, the better. This means don’t be shy with the questions, though your doctor will also provide you with plenty of information to begin with.
But questions about how intensely you should exercise and how quickly exercise and diet will lower your blood pressure are a good place to start. You may also ask your doctor’s opinion on the use of blood pressure medications, along with lifestyle changes or how dangerous your immediate condition is.
But the important thing is that you ask questions and gather all the information you can. Don’t worry; your Intermountain Health team will be happy to answer all questions that you have, since they know as well as anyone that there’s no such thing as a silly question, especially when it comes to your health!
Why should you choose Intermountain Health?
Whether it’s expert diagnosis and management of high blood pressure or any other expert medical service you need, Intermountain Health is here to meet and exceed your expectations. With our many facilities located throughout southern Nevada, there’s sure to be a clinic convenient to you.
Our vision is to be a model health system by providing extraordinary care and superior service at an affordable cost, and in doing so, we help you live the healthiest life possible.
*This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice or diagnosis from a physician or qualified healthcare professional.