And Simple Steps to Help Lower It
A Major Risk of CVD
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is strongly correlated as a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease 1.
Heart attacks, cardiac failure, stroke, ischaemic heart disease are all CVD conditions that have been the leading cause of deaths globally for the last 15 years. In fact 54% of the 15.2 million deaths in 2016 were due to CVD2. Plaque build up in the arteries - atherosclerosis - requires greater force to ensure a constant supply of oxygenated blood.
The increase in pressure exacerbates the risk of plaque breaking off causing a blockage, or a rupture of the artery wall causing leakage. The heart becomes strained as it tries to maintain the level of pressure required for a constant flow of oxygenated blood, thickening the heart muscle walls, minimising the space for blood filling in the heart, thereby reducing stroke volume - the heart’s capacity to pump the right amount blood around the body. It is unlikely that you will experience many symptoms until something major happens, which is why it is important to take preventative measures.
How does physical activity lower BP?
You don’t need formal exercise, you just need to be physically more active!
The World Health Organisation recommend 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity (such as walking) or 75 minutes per week of vigorous physical activity (like running) for good health.
Doing some form of physical activity in blocks of 10+ minutes is achievable and adds up over the course of a week. As you become more active, especially if you get out of breath, your heart rate rises along with your systolic BP, whilst diastolic BP remains pretty constant.
Normal blood pressure should be around 120mmHg for Systolic and 80mmHg for Diastolic 3.
Did you know - at night-time your blood pressure should reduce? Normal night-time blood pressure should be around 100mmHg for Systolic and 65mmHg for Diastolic 3.
Get into the habit of taking your blood pressure every day in order to spot any sudden changes, especially if your blood pressure goes above 130mmHg for Systolic 3.
Post activity your systolic BP reduces below your resting BP rate and increases endothelial functioning, helping the blood vessels to dilate and blood to flow more easily.
This reduces the risk of ruptures and blockages in the blood vessels. Physical activity also suppresses the sympathetic nervous system activity - responsible for raising heart rate and increasing adrenaline levels.
Isometric activity can easily be fitted into our lifestyle, as it can be done within the home, even whilst sitting down - such as hand grip exercises. Although there are no formal guidelines for the type and amount of isometric activity for lowering BP, recent studies have shown extremely positive results4, making this a potentially viable alternative for those who are unable to be more generally physically active and who cannot undertake formal exercise.
Always consult your GP before undertaking any exercise programme
World Health Organisation, 2018
American College of Cardiology, 2017
Goldring, Wiles & Coleman, 2014