High blood pressure and exercise

If you have high blood pressure, doing exercise can help you. Studies have shown that exercise is effective in lowering blood pressure.

 

What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the way we measure how hard the heart works, how much force the heart needs to pump blood around the body. The greater the force the heart needs to use, the higher the blood pressure.

Blood pressure is measured in two phases.

The pressure when the heart contracts and pumps blood around, the systolic pressure.

The pressure when the heart relaxes, the diastolic pressure.

If you have a blood pressure reading of below 140 mmHg systolic pressure and 90 mmHg diastolic pressure (140/90), you do not have high blood pressure (mmHg stands for millimetres of mercury).

A healthy blood pressure is between 120/80 and 100/60 mmHg. But if you have a blood pressure between 120/80 and 140/90, don´t worry that is a normal blood pressure – just not an ideal blood pressure.

High blood pressure increases the risk of, among other things, a stroke in the form of blood clots.

High blood pressure can be caused by the narrowing of blood vessels – the heart has to work harder to pump the same amount of blood around the body. Excessive salt intake, smoking, obesity or chronic stress can also give high blood pressure. And high blood pressure can be hereditary.

It is not possible to see or feel if you have high blood pressure. But headaches, dizziness, frequent nosebleeds, sweating, tinnitus, palpitations and shortness of breath may be a sign of high blood pressure. If you do not know your blood pressure, it is a good idea to get it checked.

So if you have high blood pressure (a reading above 140/90) you now know what can happen. So what can be done about it? How do you get the blood pressure back down?

One option is blood pressure medicines. Tea is also an option; a study by Cheng Kung- University in Taiwan has shown that 2-4 cups of green tea a day may reduce the risk of high blood pressure by up to 46%. A third option is to start doing some exercise. Many studies have shown that it is possible to get a lower blood pressure by doing exercise.

It is not known why exercise works to lower blood pressure, but it is thought it may be because regular exercise reduces the resistance of blood vessels and thereby reduces the force the heart needs to pump blood.

An hour’s walk or bike ride 2-3 times a week has a very positive effect on blood pressure. Other forms of exercise can be:

running

swimming

Nordic walking

rollerblading

dance

It you have a blood pressure reading of 180/105 or over, you should talk with your doctor before you start exercising.

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