Reducing High Blood Pressure through Exercise
Hypertension (high blood pressure) is defined as a blood pressure that is greater than or equal to 140 mm Hg systolic pressure and greater than or equal to 90 mm Hg diastolic pressure. Hypertension affects millions of people in industrialized countries and it often occurs with other aliments, such as strokes, heart attacks, peripheral vascular disease, and kidney failure. Risk factors for high blood pressure include age, ethnicity, family history, obesity, diabetes, smoking, alcohol consumption, high cholesterol, and stress. Because many people do not know or recognise the symptoms of high blood pressure until a major health problem arises, the disease is referred to as a silent killer. If left untreated, hypertension can lead to serious health problems and death.
Even though hypertension is a common health threat, little is known about the causes of the disease. For example, 90% of people have no specific medical cause for the disease. These are said to have essential or primary hypertension. On the other hand, 10% of people who have hypertension as a result of another health condition are said to have secondary hypertension. Some of the main causes for secondary hypertension consist of chronic kidney diseases, diseases in the arteries supplying the kidneys, chronic alcohol abuse, hormonal disturbances, and endocrine tumors.
According to a variety of different research designs, a sedentary lifestyle is a widespread risk factor for developing hypertension. Many studies show that a lack of regular exercise increases the risk for heart conditions, including high blood pressure. Since participating in regular exercise is associated with loads of health benefits, including increased blood flow and cardiovascular efficiency, healthcare professionals advocate that hypertensive patients participate in adequate levels of exercise. However, much of the literature indicates that hypertensives are less active than normotensives.
Thus, to improve blood the pressure levels, and to lower the risk of developing CVDs and other diseases, hypertensives must engage in a regular exercise routine. Data taken from the Cooper Institute for Aerobic Research indicate that the death rates were found to be lower in individuals were more physically active even though their blood pressure levels were high compared to people with low cardiovascular exercise and normal blood pressure.
Past and current research has investigated the link between exercise and hypertension and has found positive results. Controlled studies, for example, demonstrate that exercise reduces systolic and diastolic blood pressure in hypertensive people by 10/5 mm Hg. Most of these studies have noted the different types of exercise training that can be effective in lowering blood pressure. Cardiovascular conditioning was cited to be the most effective exercise mode. Studies that used exercise laboratory testing noted that low intensity walking and cycling were found to be more efficient in lowering blood pressure than high intensity modes.
A successful exercise principle that is regularly recommended for decreasing blood pressure is F.I.T.T. This acronym represents the words frequency, intensity, time, type. The American College of Sport Medicine (ACSM) has endorsed the F.I.T.T. exercise plan and has published various guidelines for cardiovascular and strength training. Below is a sample of the F.I.T.T principle:
|Frequency||- Four or more days per week|
|Intensity||- Low to moderate|
|Time||- 30-60 minutes|
|Type||- Dynamic exercise (walking, jogging, cycling, non-competitive swimming)|
Moreover, as a supplement for cardiovascular training, strength training for hypertensive patients is recommended. Some studies found strength training to be effective in lowering blood pressure and increasing muscular strength and overall fitness. Conversely, other research has found no effect on blood pressure level with hypertensives. The interpretations of strength training results are difficult because the variations in the training regimens must be considered. The differences in the exercise mode, the size of the muscle groups involved, the exercise intensity, the dynamic component, and the number of repetitions needs to be taken into consideration.
Since strength training exercises have not consistently been shown to lower blood pressure, it should not be the single mode in the overall workout. If strength training is included in the workout, it is recommended that an emphasis is placed on performing 10-15 repetitions of light weights.
The integration of a regular exercise program, including the F.I.T.T. principle with lifestyle modifications, provides many benefits to hypertensive patients which extend beyond a reduction in blood pressure.
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