Over the coming weeks we will discuss chronic health conditions and the role exercise intervention plays in management and prevention. In this article we will explore hypertension, or high blood pressure, which is the most common cardiovascular (CV) risk factor for Australians.
As of 2017-18 the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that 1 in 10 Australians have hypertension and the numbers increase significantly for both men and women aged over 65. Not only is hypertension the most common CV disease risk factor it is also the most preventable!
WHAT IS BLOOD PRESSURE?
Blood pressure is the pressure of blood as it moves through your arteries when the heart pumps it around your body. During a blood pressure check, the measurement of your blood pressure is taken twice: as the heart beats and in between beats. The pressure will be higher when the heart beats, and then lessen in between. These two pressure measurements are called your systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
This is why your blood pressure result will always consist of two numbers, for example 120 when the heart beats, and then 80 in between. Blood pressure is often written like a fraction, such as 120/80, and your doctor might use the term ‘over’ when talking about what your result is, our example would be said “120 over 80”.
WHAT IS A HEALTHY BLOOD PRESSURE?
A healthy blood pressure measurement is usually considered numbers under 120 and over 80, with a gap of about 20-40 in between the two numbers. Hypertension is generally classified as blood pressure above 140/90, however the parameters vary slightly for age, gender and other variables. An elevated reading over a prolonged period of time with specific investigations by a GP will lead to the diagnosis of Hypertension.
It’s important to have your blood pressure measured regularly, as blood pressure that is too high or low can cause health problems, and might be a symptom of other health conditions. Your body can regulate your blood pressure to meet its needs, so if you have a high or low measurement, your doctor might measure again a few times on different days to get a good indication of your normal blood pressure.
The table below shows the ranges used to help doctors make diagnosis and management decisions about blood pressure.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE?
Although more than 30% of adult Australians have high blood pressure, the majority of these people don’t display any symptoms. You can’t ‘feel’ that you have high blood pressure, which is why it’s important to have your blood pressure checked regularly. Blood pressure often creeps up over time, so your doctor can track if this is happening by checking regularly over a number of years.
Even if you do not currently suffer from high blood pressure, but are at risk due to family genetics or other lifestyle factors, you should should start thinking seriously about reducing your risk factors. Prevention is always better than cure.
If left untreated, hypertension can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, diabetes, eye disease, erectile dysfunction and other conditions. High blood pressure can be managed by:
doing regular physical activity, aiming for 30 minutes of moderate activity each day
moderating alcohol intake
eating less salt
eating a wide range of healthy foods and drinking plenty of water
Some people with high blood pressure will need to take medication to manage their condition.
For the purpose of this article we will discuss the significance of intervention through exercise therapy. “Participation in regular exercise is a key modifiable determinant of hypertension and is recognized as a cornerstone therapy for the primary prevention, treatment, and control of high BP. On average, regular aerobic exercise lowers resting systolic BP 5-7 mmHg, while resistance exercise lowers resting systolic BP 2-3 mmHg among individuals with hypertension”, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).
Proportion of Australians with High Blood Pressure
So, what is the best type or amount of exercise to manage blood pressure? Ideally you should consult with an Exercise Physiologist to implement a specific, appropriate and progressive exercise routine for your situation, however the ACSM recommends that "individuals with hypertension engage in moderate intensity, aerobic exercise 5-7 days per week, supplemented by resistance exercise 2-3 days per week and flexibility exercise greater than or equal to 2-3 days per week.”
This means that exercise, or alternatively physical activity, should be performed most days of the week with intensity varying between low and medium with duration ranging from 30-60 minutes. As mentioned earlier, every case is different, however if you were to implement low intensity walking for 30 minutes 5 days a week this would be a good start and tick many boxes.
TIPS FOR BEING MORE ACTIVE
Any physical activity is better than none.
Set Realistic Goals
Start with small, realistic goals and work your way up to the recommended 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity (such as brisk walking) on most days of the week.
Choose Activities You Enjoy
When you enjoy being active, you’re more likely to do it more often.
Stay motivated by doing physical activity together with a group of friends or family, or even with your dog.
Adults who sit less throughout the day have a lower risk of early death, particularly from heart disease.
Now that you have started on your journey of self-managing your blood pressure why not contact our exercise physiologists to implement a more specific and beneficial plan for your situation. Contact us on 07 5456 1599 and make an appointment.