May is High Blood Pressure Awareness Month so I wanted to discuss high blood pressure and the positive effect that exercise has on preventing and treating it.
What is Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is the amount of pressure that is applied to the walls of the arteries in your body as your blood circulates. The top number (systolic blood pressure) represents the pressure in the arteries when the heart is contracting. The bottom number (diastolic blood pressure) represents the pressure in the arteries when the heart is relaxing.
Blood pressure should be < 120/80 mmHg to be considered at low risk for associated health problems.
What is Classified as High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is defined as having a systolic blood pressure > 140 mmHg and/or a diastolic blood pressure > 90 mmHg (note: this is generally diagnosed after having multiple, consistently high readings).
Prehypertension is defined as having a systolic blood pressure of 120-139 mmHg and/or a diastolic blood pressure of 80-89 mmHg.
High Blood Pressure Facts
- 1 in 3 American adults have high blood pressure. Of those, 1 in 5 do not know they have it.
- High blood pressure increases your risk of heart disease, heart failure, kidney disease, stroke, and many other health problems.
- High blood pressure is known as the “silent killer” because many people do not know they have high blood pressure until after it has already done harm to their bodies.
Effect of Exercise on Blood Pressure
- Regular aerobic exercise (at least 30 minutes most days of the week) can decrease overall resting blood pressure (mainly systolic blood pressure) by an average of 5 – 10 points.
- In addition to impacting overall blood pressure, your blood pressure is lower immediately following an exercise bout compared to where it was when you started! You can even get this benefit from short bouts (10 minutes). The main reason for this decrease is that exercising helps your arteries become more elastic in order to dilate. As your arteries increase in diameter, the pressure decreases.
- Exercise can aid in weight loss. Weight loss generally results in a decrease in blood pressure.
- Even if you do not have high blood pressure, exercise is still beneficial because it can prevent an increase in blood pressure.
Do you know your numbers? If you have not had your blood pressure checked recently, many pharmacies have an automatic machine that you can use.