How does physical activity help if you have hypertension?

WHAT IS It?

Blood is pumped around the body by the heart. It is circulated through vessels known as arteries, and smaller vessels known as capillaries. When the heart contracts to force blood into these vessels, your blood pressure increases. This is why your blood pressure measurement is made up of figures, the pressure during contraction and the pressure during relaxation. High blood pressure is also known as hypertension.

WHAT CAUSES HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE?

In a few cases there is a specific reason for high blood pressure. For example if your kidneys or adrenal glands are not working correctly. However most of the time there is no specific reason or cause for high blood pressure. There are some causes you may not be able to influence, for example having a family history of high blood pressure or being of non-white origin. However there are many causes to do with your lifestyle that you can change to reduce your risk of having high blood pressure, or reducing your pressure if it is already too high. These include being over weight, eating too much salt and cholesterol, drinking too much alcohol, being physically inactive and not eating enough fruit and vegetables.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

If you suffer from high blood pressure then you have an increased risk of suffering from heart disease, stroke and heart failure. Prolonged high blood pressure causes damage to your blood vessels which can lead to the vessels becoming narrowed. This increases the likelihood of the vessels becoming blocked and can cause damage to heart or brain. The higher your blood pressure, the higher the risk of heart disease so any changes you can make to reduce your blood pressure will help to reduce this risk.

HOW DOES PHYSICAL ACTIVITY HELP?

  • Your blood pressure measurement is made up of two numbers – for example 140/85mmHg. First number is the pressure during heartbeats (systolic pressure), and the second is the pressure between heartbeats (diastolic pressure). regular physical activity can lower systolic pressure by 10mmHg, and diastolic by 8mmHg.
  • People usually get the biggest reduction in blood pressure within the first 10 weeks of activity. But you need to remain active to maintain the benefits.
  • increasing your level of activity helps speed your metabolism. This helps you to burn more calories and, as long as you don’t eat more to compensate for this, you will lose weight.
  • Physical activity helps reduce other risk factors for heart disease such as high blood cholesterol levels, developing diabetes and the risk of having a stroke.
  • Physical activity, along with healthy diet, helps reduce stress and improves your overall feeling of well-being and quality of life, and helps you to sleep well.
  • It is also reduces the risk of bowel cancer, osteoporosis and the risk of falling.

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