Managing Blood Pressure with Exercise
High blood pressure or hypertension is really common among Australians – 1 in 3 of us had hypertension and/or were taking medications to manage it in 2014-15.
That’s more than 6 million of us!!
Normal blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg, and will vary during the day, but it should remain in the vicinity of these numbers or lower. When it’s consistently higher than this you maybe diagnosed with hypertension. It’s not something you can see or feel, but it’s something that brings a whole lot of secondary risks so it’s important you get your blood pressure checked regularly.
High blood pressure can cause changes to the structure and function of the cardiovascular system over time, leading to serious secondary complications like:
- Coronary heart disease (narrowing of the blood vessels that supply the heart)
- Stroke (interruption of blood supply to the brain)
- Heart failure (the inability of the heart to pump blood around the body)
- Chronic kidney disease (loss of kidney function and potentially failure)
- Vision loss (collapse of blood vessels that supply the eyes)
You may require regular medication to control your high blood pressure and regular checks by a health professional. This might be paired with lifestyle changes such as dietary restrictions.
Exercise is a natural way to control your blood pressure
The research shows that aerobic type exercise is very effective at reducing resting and light exercising blood pressure. There is also evidence that exercise can help protect against the development of hypertension before it even starts, particularly in men.
Resistance exercises such as going to the gym are also effective, provided the movements are dynamic, rhythmic, emphasise the eccentric component of the movement and maintain normal breathing.
Both types of exercise should be monitored – if not prescribed – by an Exercise Physiologist to ensure both safety and effectiveness. We would develop a program that works with your preferences and your health status. Not all of it has to be done in the clinic under supervision; once we know what’s safe, we will encourage you to do some outside your appointments. Integrating exercise into your week is often referred to as lifestyle modification. An example of this might be:
We can also keep in contact with your GP to ensure any long-term reductions in blood pressure are matched by reductions in your blood pressure medication so you don’t end up with hypotension (low blood pressure).
Hypertension can be managed and improved with regular participation in exercise. Exercise also has bonus side effects such as reducing the risk of falls, reducing your risk of metabolic conditions (type 2 diabetes, hypercholesterolaemia) and improving mood – none of these come with taking hypertension medication.
Talk to your GP about seeing one of our Exercise Physiologists; you may be eligible for Medicare-rebated sessions. Alternatively, give us a call and talk to us directly, we will point you in the right direction; 03 8370 3044.
For more information on managing hypertension naturally, check out our guest blog by Nutritionist Alison Wright from Alimentary.