Our last post was about blood pressure, and the newly released guidelines about how aggressively to treat high blood pressure. While some people can lower their blood pressure adequately by only making changes in their lifestyle, a majority of people with high blood pressure will, at least at some point in their lives, need some sort of medication(s) to control their condition.
However, some people (the exact percentage is unknown), particularly those with mildly elevated blood pressure, can control their pressure with lifestyle changes only. And if they cannot completely control their pressure with these measures, many can delay their need for medication, or reduce the amount of medication needed, if they make some basic lifestyle modifications.
The lifestyle modifications to improve blood pressure include:
-reduce sodium (salt) intake
-decrease alcohol intake
Probably the most effective of these is to lose weight if you are overweight. Aerobic exercise might be the second most important measure. One question arises regarding exercise is: what type of exercise is best for controlling hypertension?
Glenn Gaesser, Ph.D., director of the Healthy Lifestyles Research Center at Arizona State University, has spent a good part of his professional career studying this question. He has noted that much of the blood pressure reduction that results from exercise occurs because exercise relaxes the blood vessels. When blood vessels relax, blood pressure drops.
This relaxation of the vessels occurs most strongly right after completing exercise, so one might think that by splitting up exercise into multiple small episodes of exercise throughout the day would be best. And that is exactly what Dr. Gaesser has found in his research.
The good news is that he found that any sort of exercise is good—it does not need to be running, swimming or treadmill. You should choose whatever sort of aerobic exercise(s) you like best. The important thing is that you move.
Dr. Gaesser’s study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, found that people who exercised by fast walking for a 30 minute period once a day—as well as people who split up the 30 minutes of exercise into 3 periods of 10 minutes spread throughout the day—showed significant improvements in their blood pressure. However, only the people who split their exercise into 3 periods enjoyed a drop in their blood pressure into the night and the next morning as well.
So splitting up whatever exercise you do into multiple shorter periods throughout the day is best, and even fast walking is fine.
Further, Dr. Gaesser notes that standing is better than sitting for blood pressure control. More standing, and less sitting, throughout the day will help control your pressure. He recommends that, as much as possible, you stand up at least 10 minutes every hour of your workday. And if you can move while you are standing, even better.
See also in ProcuraMed:
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