Hypertension: Everything you need to know – Part 4

hypertension
Image Credit: mixetto/iStock

In this concluding article of the series on how to control hypertension; we look into how being physically active will accentuate the healing.

We are all familiar with the benefits of exercising regularly to lower the blood pressure. Earlier it may have been considered as an over-hyped phenomenon, but today we have a much better understanding of the cavernous effects of hypertension. Exercising regularly should be given a serious thought.

Is it not risky for a hypertensive individual to work out? A heart attack, a stroke and so many unlikely thoughts boggle the mind even before an actual trial.
It is true that physical activity will cause your blood pressure to rise for a short time. However, when you stop the activity, your blood pressure should soon return to normal. The quicker the blood pressure normalizes, the fitter you are likely to be.

There is no better option than being physically active to control the blood pressure.

Still if you come under any of the following categories then get your physician’s OK before starting any exercise program.

  • Age above 40 years.
  • Smoking, regularly
  • Overweight or obese
  • Previous medical history of heart related issues like an attack, diabetes, high cholesterol
  • Family history of any heart disease
  • Any pain, discomfort in the chest, jaws, neck or arms during activity, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat. These are also emergency warning signs that need immediate medical attention if you experience any of the above symptoms while exercising.

Activity Table (1)

Blood Pressure LevelActivity levels
Below 90/60May have low blood pressure, get a consent from the doctor before starting exercise
90/60 – 140/90Safe to be more active; it will help to keep your blood pressure in this ideal range
140/90 -179/99Should be safe to start increasing your physical activity to lower your high blood pressure
180/100 – 199/109Speak to your doctor before staring any new exercise
200/110 or aboveDo not start any new activity – consult a doctor first

To reduce any risk of injury, always start slowly, if possible, under expert supervision and build up the intensity gradually. Remember to do a good warm up and a cool down post work out.
Checking your blood pressure on a regular basis will help you to know the effectiveness of your exercise regime.

How exercise helps

Exercising makes the heart muscles stronger due to which it can pump more blood with less effort. This in turn reduces the force on the arteries helping to reduce the blood pressure. Losing even ten percent of the weight also helps in lowering the blood pressure levels.

Exercise consistency is the key. Maintaining consistency in exercising is crucial as it normally takes about one to three months to bring substantial results on the blood pressure. To reap the benefits, make it a practice to exercise regularly.

Types of Exercise

Any moderate level of physical activity is good to begin with. Start by getting more active in the daily routine like moving around more often during the day for smaller chores or taking the stairs wherever possible to burn calories.

AHA Recommendation (2)

For overall health benefits on the heart, lungs and circulation, perform any moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity using the following guidelines:

  • For most healthy people, get the equivalent of at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) per week of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking.
  • If you need to lower your blood pressure or cholesterol, aim for 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity 3 to 4 times per week.
  • You can incorporate your weekly physical activity with 30 minutes a day on at least 5 days a week.
  • Physical activity should be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes, and preferably, it should be spread throughout the week.
  • Include flexibility and stretching exercises.
  • Include muscle strengthening activity at least 2 days each week.

Cardiovascular or aerobic exercises like walking, cycling, swimming will make the heart stronger and help in controlling hypertension. Strength training builds muscular strength which increase the metabolic rate and help burn more calories.

Sticking to the exercise regime

This seems to be the toughest part but actually it isn’t if we prioritize our health goals.

  • Exercising should not feel like a punishment. One should enjoy the activity. Select the one which will make you stick to it.
  • Set the same time every single day so that it does not interfere with any other routine work.
  • Find a help: It always helps to have an exercise buddy with similar goals to help you stay motivated and happy.
  • Monitor your progress. Keeping a tab on the blood pressure levels and bodyweight will have a positive impact on hypertensive individuals.
  • Reward yourself on achieving your milestones.

A few important notes

Warm up and cool down

A good warm up and cool down routine helps the heart to move from rest to activity mode and back again gradually. At the same time, it helps to prevent any injuries, soreness and muscle cramping without any drastic blood pressure changes.

Breath Control

Breathe regularly throughout the exercise routine. Holding the breath lowers the blood pressure and also relaxes the body.

Yoga and hypertension (3)

Yoga reduces hypertension by addressing its underlying cause. It pacifies the sympathetic nervous system and slows down the heart rate. Researches prove that the following asanas and pranayamas (breathing exercises) are effective in lowering blood pressure. But always remember to learn them under proper guidance.

  • Sukhasan
  • Full yogic breathing
  • Bhramari
  • Janusirsasana
  • Paschimottanasana
  • Purvatanuasana
  • Shvasana
  • Ardh–halasana
  • Setu-bandhasana
  • Yog nidra
  • Makarasana with Bhramari pranayama

Not all asanas are good

There are certain poses/asanas in yoga which you need to avoid.
Inversion poses pose a threat for individuals with high blood pressure as the head is below the heart. Avoid performing asanas which are challenging and lead to rapid breath poses or asanas like headstand, forearm stand, shoulder stand, handstand, and backbends should be avoided.

Takeaway

Select the activities you enjoy and not stress you out and increase your pulse. “The Pros still Outweigh the Cons”

Also read other articles in this series for complete and practical step-by-step solutions.

Hypertension: Everything you need to know – Part 1

Hypertension: Everything you need to know – Part 2

Hypertension: Everything you need to know – Part 3

Disclaimer

The above article is for informational purposes and should not be considered as medical advice. Please consult a qualified medical doctor for accurate diagnosis and treatment for any symptoms/ailments.

References

Blood Pressure UK – Exercise, physical activity and your blood pressure

Heart.org – Getting active to control high blood pressure

The art of living – Yoga for high blood pressure

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Renu is a Clinical Dietitian and Diabetes Educator. In her last 15 years of practice, she has focused on two things: making her clients learn the concepts of "right diet for them" and giving them "Happy to follow" diet programs by offering healthy alternatives, very close to their regular eating habits. This approach resulted in permanent change in the dietary habits and significant improvement in health status for over 7000 clientele of Renu. Apart from Weight Management programs, she has been successful in dietary treatment of diabetes, thyroid related issues, gut health related issues like acid reflux, constipation and IBS, PCOS and other hormonal imbalances, child nutrition, sports nutrition and all lifestyle related disorders.

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