Need to drop your blood pressure levels? One way to achieve this feat is making changes in your lifestyle. Lifestyle changes include having a healthy diet, limiting alcohol and caffeine intake, being physically active, and quit smoking.

Out of all lifestyle changes, exercise is the most effective way to manage hypertension, especially when combined with a healthy diet. It can help to lower the upper reading of your blood pressure by 4-9 mm of Hg.

Besides, physical activity not only lowers your blood pressure but also improves energy, and is a great stress buster. It also helps to strengthen your heart, manage your weight, and improve emotional health, which are all good for blood pressure.

However, certain factors such as smoking and a history of heart attack may increase the risk of exercise related complications. So, if you are currently not active, check with your physician first to make sure you are ready for exercise.

To return to the subject, you don’t have to hit a gym to get blood pressure under control. You just need to exercise that makes the heart beat a little faster and makes you breathe harder.

Here are some lifestyle changes, including exercise, and how they help to combat high blood pressure.

Hypertension and Lifestyle Changes

If you are diagnosed with hypertension, your doctor may advise lifestyle changes to bring down your blood pressure levels. Following lifestyle changes might delay, reduce, or even avoid the need for medication to manage hypertension.

Some lifestyle changes that help in managing hypertension are:

Blood pressure is directly proportional to weight. Besides, being overweight increases the risk of sleep apnea, which further increases your blood pressure

Losing Extra Pounds

Shedding those extra pounds is thus an effective way to manage your pressure levels. Losing even a couple of pounds can help you reduce blood pressure if you are overweight. Generally, with each kilogram of weight loss, your pressure reduces by about 1 mm Hg.

Concurrently, it would be best if you also watch your waistline. Too much fat around the waist increases your risk of high blood pressure.

  • For men, the risk increases if the waist is greater than 102 centimetres or 40 inches.
  • For women, the risk increases if the waist is greater than 89 centimetres or 35 inches.

Consume A Healthy Diet

Eating a nutritious diet can help to lower blood pressure by 11 mm Hg if you have high blood pressure. A healthy diet includes fruits, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products, skimps on salt, cholesterol, and saturated fat. This type of diet is known as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.

You can get to know more about the DASH diet here.

Some general considerations while following a healthy diet are:

  • Maintain a diary of what you eat. It will help you to understand your actual eating habits and also monitor how much you eat.
  • Increase intake of potassium-rich foods, such as vegetables and fruits.
  • While dining out or purchasing canned foods, always read food labels. Stay steer clear from excess salt and sugar.

Reduce Sodium Intake

Generally, sodium intake in a Canadian diet is 3,400 mg. However, if you have hypertension, you should limit your sodium intake to 2,300 mg in a day or lesser. Reducing your sodium intake to 1,500 mg in a day is even better.

Consume Alcohol in Moderation

Moderate consumption of alcohol is beneficial for your blood pressure levels. But, if consumed in excess, it may raise your blood pressure. Excess consumption also lowers the effectiveness of hypertension medications.

To maintain normal blood pressure levels, men should not have more than two drinks in a day. For women, it is one drink in a day.

One drink means five ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, and 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.

Lastly, it is also essential to lower caffeine intake and quit smoking.

Hypertension and Exercise

While certain factors increase the risk of hypertension, exercise can make a positive impact and help you lower the numbers. The good news is, you do not need to join a gym or run a marathon to get its beneficial effect. Instead, start slow and gradually work on physical activity. Even simple exercises such as walking or doing home errands can help.

Regular exercise makes your heart stronger, which can pump blood with minimal effort. As your heart works less to pump, the force of blood on the blood vessel wall reduces, thus lowering blood pressure.

As mentioned before, physical activity reduces blood pressure by 4-9 mm Hg. For some individuals, exercise might thus be enough to prevent the need for blood pressure medications.

Physical activity is also beneficial for people with blood pressure under the normal range. For them, exercise prevents the risk of hypertension as they age. Besides, it also aids in maintaining a normal weight, which is again a crucial factor to control blood pressure.

At the same time, it is also essential to exercise regularly. It takes around one to three months to have a beneficial effect on pressure levels.

How Much Exercise is Adequate?

Aerobic activity is an effective way to manage blood pressure. Any activity that increases your breathing and heart rates is considered as an aerobic activity. Adding moderate-intensity aerobic exercises is beneficial for your pressure levels.

Some examples of moderate-intensity aerobic exercises are:

  • Walking
  • Jogging
  • Swimming
  • Bicycling
  • Climbing stairs
  • Dancing
  • Active sports, such as tennis or basketball
  • Household errands, such as raking leaves, mowing the lawn, scrubbing or gardening the floor.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity or 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity aids in controlling blood pressure. So, you can choose to carry out at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercises for five days in a week.

However, if you find it difficult to spare 30 minutes at a stretch, you can split your workout into two or three shorter sessions.

At the same time, it is also essential to reduce the number of hours you spend sitting. Research has shown that too many sedentary hours are responsible for various health conditions. So, aim to go for a short break or get up for a glass of water— each hour.

Hypertension Workout

Weight training, when combined with aerobic exercises, aids in improving blood pressure and reduces the risk of cardiovascular complications. 

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, it is beneficial to add weight training exercises at least twice in a week. 

However, it is essential to understand that weight training might cause a temporary spike in your pressure levels. The intensity of the spike depends on the weight you lift.

To prevent any complications, it is essential to take the following precautions while doing strength training:

  • Learn and use the proper form and technique as it lowers the risk of injury.
  • Avoid holding breath while you exercise. Doing so can dangerously increase your blood pressure. Instead, breathe continuously and smoothly.
  • Always listen to your body. If you feel dizzy, or have chest pain, or get out of breath, you should stop the activity right away.
  • It is advisable to lift lighter weights more frequently. Heavier weights put a strain on your body, increasing blood pressure. Instead, to challenge your muscles, increase the number of repetitions you do for each muscle group.

Hypertension Risk Factors for Exercising

Certain factors increase the risk of complications associated with exercising. It is thus a good idea to consult your doctor before starting with a fitness routine.

Consulting your physician is even more important if you have either of the following risk factors:

  • Woman above 55 years of age or a man above 45 years of age.
  • Have the habit of smoking.
  • Chronic health conditions, such as cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, or lung disorders.
  • Being overweight or obese.
  • Past history of a heart attack.
  • High cholesterol levels.
  • Family history of heart disorders.
  • Discomfort or pain in jaw, arms, or neck during activity.
  • Dizziness during exertion.

Final Thoughts

Hypertension is a common condition, which may result in various complications if left unattended for a longer time. In many cases, lifestyle changes are sufficient to bring down your blood pressure. 

Exercise is among one the most effective lifestyle changes to control blood pressure. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends a combination of aerobic exercises and weight training for treating hypertension. However, if not carried out properly, exercise may harm your body. So, it is always recommended to consult your physician before starting to exercise, especially if you are not currently active.

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