Hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure, is a prevalent health issue that significantly impacts cardiovascular health. The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association have recently updated the guidelines for managing hypertension, altering the definition of hypertension from a blood pressure (BP) reading of more than 140/90 mmHg to more than 130/80 mm Hg.
Staging Hypertension: What the Numbers Mean
These new guidelines introduce two stages of hypertension:
- Stage 1, characterized by a systolic blood pressure of 130-139 mmHg or diastolic blood pressure of 80-89 mmHg.
- Stage 2, which corresponds to a systolic blood pressure of more than 140 mmHg or a diastolic blood pressure exceeding 90 mmHg.
Exercise as a Pillar of Hypertension Management
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) emphasizes the role of regular aerobic exercise in reducing hypertension. For individuals with hypertension, aerobic exercise can lead to reductions in blood pressure within the range of 5-7 mmHg.
These reductions translate into a significantly decreased risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVD), ranging from 20% to 30%.
Medications and Their Influence on Exercise
Many medications prescribed for hypertension can impact exercise and post-exercise responses. Beta blockers and calcium channel blockers are among these medications.
They may blunt the heart rate response and potentially cause hypotension, leading to a decrease in blood pressure. Individuals taking these medications should monitor exercise intensity using the Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale, make slow position transitions, and conclude exercise sessions with a gradual and prolonged cool-down period.
They should also rise slowly from supine or seated positions to prevent sudden drops in blood pressure.
Exercise Considerations for Hypertension
Weightlifting and strength training exercises may not be the ideal choice for individuals with hypertension, as they can elevate blood pressure. Additionally, isometric muscle contractions, such as planks, can substantially raise blood pressure and are best avoided.
Tailoring Exercise for Hypertension
The effects of resistance training alone on blood pressure are not as substantial as those of cardiorespiratory exercise. However, when combined, cardiorespiratory and muscular training can yield reductions in post-exercise blood pressure similar to those achieved through cardiorespiratory training alone.
Regular exercise should aim for moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes, on at least five days of the week. Activities such as walking, cycling, elliptical cross-training, stair climbing, and swimming are excellent choices. Muscle-strengthening exercises should be incorporated at least two times per week.
Patience and Persistence
According to the Mayo Clinic, it may take anywhere from 1 to 3 months for regular exercise to have a noticeable impact on blood pressure. The key is to maintain regular exercise habits, as the benefits persist only as long as exercise is part of your routine.
Hypertension, often referred to as high blood pressure, is a condition that necessitates careful management. Recent updates in guidelines highlight the significance of controlling and preventing hypertension through a combination of lifestyle changes, medications, and exercise.
Understanding the staging of hypertension and considering the potential effects of medications on exercise are crucial aspects of managing this condition. Moreover, regular exercise, especially a combination of cardiorespiratory and muscular training, plays a pivotal role in reducing blood pressure and decreasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Patience and persistence are key when it comes to reaping the long-term benefits of exercise in managing hypertension.