If your doctor has diagnosed you with high blood pressure, chances are it came as a surprise to you. And if you haven't gotten yours checked lately, that should be on your short list of to-dos. Unlike other medical conditions, high blood pressure, or hypertension, can occur with no obvious symptoms. In fact, many of the stereotypical hypertension markers, such as nosebleeds and headaches, are often not actual symptoms.
Hypertension is worthy of your attention despite its lack of symptoms. About one in three American adults are affected, and many are unaware. And when left unchecked, the unfortunate results of hypertension can include dementia, blood clots, a damaged heart, a stroke, damaged eyes, kidney impairment, or sexual dysfunction.
The good news is that every time you work out with your Fitness Together personal trainer, you're taking a significant step in hypertension prevention and relief. There’s no question, exercise makes your heart stronger, allowing your heart to pump blood with less effort. Less heart strain allows for less stress on your arteries, therefore lowering your blood pressure.
In relation to blood pressure, exercise helps in three ways:
- It helps normal pressure stay at a healthy level. It’s always easier to maintain healthy blood pressure than it is to repair high blood pressure.
- It can keep elevated blood pressure from developing into full-blown hypertension. Like many medical conditions, there are varying degrees of severity. There is “normal,” “elevated,” and “high” where high would result in the official diagnosis of Hypertension. (New guidelines say normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 mmHg and readings above 130/80 mmHg are considered high.)
- It can lower your existing blood pressure 4 to 9 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), which is as effective as some blood pressure medications
- It can help you lose weight. Blood pressure often increases as weight increases, so lowering your weight through regular exercise can, in turn, lower your blood pressure. Being overweight also can cause disrupted breathing while you sleep (sleep apnea), which further raises your blood pressure.
If you're concerned about elevated blood pressure, be sure to talk with your doctor. And then, if he or she gives you the okay, consult your personal trainer regarding which exercises would be a good fit for you. In general, aerobic exercise, such as running, fast walking, dancing, or biking, can be effective blood pressure helpers.
While lifting weights can cause a temporary spike in your blood pressure, the long-term benefits of weight lifting outweigh this side effect, as having strengthened muscles can improve your overall heart health. Ask your Fitness Together personal trainer for some additional tips and ideas to enable you to lift weights safely and as always, consult your physician before beginning.
This being said, like most problems that list exercise as a remedy, the fix is only as effective as your discipline. When you quit exercising, exercise quits helping your blood pressure. To see a significant change in your blood pressure reading, it is recommended you stick with exercising a minimum of 160 minutes a week for three months. And then, of course, keep at it long-term.
While this unassuming health condition can be serious, it's possible that exercise can be the lifestyle change that helps turn it around.