Lower Blood Pressure the Natural Way

Improve your hypertension with good old exercise.

Did you know that an overwhelming 75 percent of people over the age of 60 have hypertension? This isn’t a small number and certainly not one to be ignored. Defined as blood pressure greater than 140/90 mmHg, hypertension puts you at an increased risk for heart attack, stroke, peripheral arterial disease, kidney damage, vision loss, angina, and memory loss if left untreated. The frequency of high blood pressure is particularly puzzling since a few simple lifestyle changes can greatly reduce your risk for hypertension and the risks that go along with it.

What is one of the most effective natural treatments? Exercise! In fact, just a month of increased activity can lower your blood pressure by five to seven points. For mild to moderate cases of hypertension, exercise and a healthy diet can work wonders, but a blood pressure reading of 180/110 mmHg or above is an emergency situation requiring medication plus lifestyle changes to reach the safe zone.

As you age, it’s important to get your blood pressure checked at least once a year. Don’t take an elevated reading lightly. Start exercising today to lower your numbers.

What Exercise?

The good news when it comes to exercise and lowering blood pressure is that anything works. The goal is to incorporate physical activity into your daily life so your heart has to work harder and your breathing increases. An active lifestyle keeps your circulatory system healthy, keeps your weight in check, and reduces stress—all ways to lower blood pressure.

The choice is yours. Cardio, strength training, and flexibility exercises are all beneficial for your heart, so take your pick. And for a balanced routine, try to include all three types.

Jogging, walking, swimming, cycling, raking leaves, skating, aerobics, dancing, and basketball are examples of cardio exercise that get your heart rate and breathing elevated. Lifting weights, using weight machines, and performing bodyweight exercises are types of strength training exercises that build muscle and support bone health. Flexibility exercises are stretches that improve your balance, prevent injury, and increase blood flow.

How Much?

A second bit of good news about exercise and lowering blood pressure is that even a small amount can make a difference. You don’t have to train to be an Olympic athlete or marathon runner to see results, but it will take more than a leisurely 10-minute walk a couple times a week.

For good health it’s recommended to get at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week of moderate-intensity exercise or 20 minutes a day or three days a week of high-intensity exercise. Newbies to exercise should slowly work up to this amount of time. Remember, a little is better than nothing at all and every little bit counts.

Any Precautions?

High blood pressure is a health condition requiring close monitoring by your doctor. Before beginning a new exercise routine, talk with your physician to determine what limitations you should put on your routine.

Those with high blood pressure would do well to start each workout with a five-minute warm-up to give the heart a chance to slowly increase blood flow and minimize stress on the heart.

As you work out don’t overdo it. It’s good for you to sweat and breathe hard, but you should be able to carry on a conversation with someone during exercise. If you ever feel extremely short of breath, that your heart is beating irregularly or too quickly, dizzy, or have pain, stop exercising and call your doctor. While lifting weights, breathe through each exercise and gradually increase the amount of weight you lift. More repetitions of lower weights are safer for you than lifting heavier weights fewer times.

A 5- to 10-minute cool-down period is especially important for those with high blood pressure, as a gradual decline of your heart rate will keep you from passing out or feeling ill after exercise.

Remember, the benefits of physical activity on blood pressure last only as long as you keep exercise a regular part of your routine, so don’t give up!