There’s a lot of talk about blood pressure and as many as 1 in 3 adults have high blood pressure, only half of whom have their condition under control. But why does it matter? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention high blood pressure (BP of 140/90 mmHg or higher) is named as a primary or contributing cause for almost 1000 deaths per day. When blood pressure goes up you may have few or no symptoms, so it is important to check it regularly.
Several risk factors contribute to the development or worsening of hypertension. Some modifiable risk factors are obesity, tobacco use, activity level, eating diets high in sodium and low in potassium, and alcohol use. Other non-modifiable risk factors include certain medical conditions like diabetes, family history, advanced age, and gender.
The good news is if you do have high blood pressure, or if it is starting to creep up, you have several options. Simple things like adjusting your diet can bring systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure down by as much as 5 and 3 mmHg respectively (USDA guidelines recommend the DASH diet for reducing cardiovascular risk factors, lowering risk of metabolic syndrome, and maintaining a healthy body weight: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/hbp/dash/new_dash.pdf).
Likewise, lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, losing weight, limiting alcohol intake, and getting active can make a big difference! Adding a moderate-intensity endurance exercise program has been shown to improve blood pressure. And of course if any of these changes aren’t quite adequate pharmaceuticals are always an option.
As with any medical condition, be sure to consult with your primary care provider before making changes.
For more resources visit:
Howley, E. T., & Thompson, D. L. (2012). Fitness professionals handbook. Champaign, IL.
Powers, S. K., & Howley, E. T. (2012). Exercise physiology: Theory and application to fitness and performance. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
~ Anne, B.S. Exercise Physiology