When I think about blood pressure it sends shivers down my spine. I had high blood pressure during my two pregnancies to the point where I had severe preeclampsia. It wasn’t a nice experience. I just wish I had taken up walking when I was expecting. I recently read about a study carried out in the US of men aged over 70 with high blood pressure, those who were fit were half as likely to have died within 10 years as those who were unfit. Another study has found that you can increase your chances of living a longer life if you take a brisk walk at least once a day.
Walking can help lower high blood pressure. The American Hearth Association recommends walking three to four times per week if you need to lower your blood pressure or cholesterol. This is also recommended by health professionals in Canada and in the UK. Brisk walking was the top recommendation and the most effective because it can be fitted in to our daily routine.
I remember clearly during my two pregnancies and suffering from preeclampsia how important it was to monitor my blood pressure and how important it is to get high blood pressure treated. Other research has shown that taking a brisk walk has around the same effect on lowering your blood pressure as many drugs have. Indeed, the walking can lower your systolic pressure (the higher of the two numbers) as much as 4 to 9 millimetres. This is fantastic news to those who suffer from high blood pressure. I still measure my blood pressure every now and again. It is habit with me and I probably don’t need to do it but my blood pressure is at the normal levels and I put that down to walking.
Why is blood pressure so important?
I have read a lot about blood pressure over the years especially with my second pregnancy. For those who aren’t sure of the issues surrounding high blood pressure, I wanted to touch on these here. Basically, the heart pumps blood around your body through your arteries out to your organs and muscles.
This is done by generating pressure. Too much pressure means it puts a strain on both your arteries and your heart too. The consequences of too much pressure can lead to the rupture of an artery or your heart could fail under the strain of the pressure.
What is high blood pressure?
High blood pressure or hypertension as it is sometimes called happens when the blood is forced through your arteries at a higher pressure than normal. What is normal I hear you ask? Well your blood pressure is measured using two numbers. For example, your health professional would say “oh your blood pressure is 120 over 80.”
That first figure is the systolic blood pressure which is the maximum pressure in your arteries when the heart beats and pushes blood around your body.
The second figure is the diastolic blood pressure. It is the minimum pressure in your arteries between the beats of your heart when it relaxes to fill with blood to pump it around again.
Medical opinion says that those who have a systolic blood pressure reading (the first figure) consistently above 140 and/or a diastolic reading (the second figure) over 85 need to have treatment as this is classed as high blood pressure.
To be honest I can’t remember what my levels where when I had high blood pressure but it was really high!
What are the symptoms of high blood pressure?
Unfortunately, one of the problems with having high blood pressure is that you can’t really tell you have it unless you take your blood pressure yourself or go visit your doctor! Although if you have severely high blood pressure you are likely to experience headaches, confusion and sleepiness.
For me, I didn’t notice a blooming thing. I can still kick myself for this to this day. I just wish there had been signs of high blood pressure. For my second pregnancy it didn’t get too high as we bought a monitor as you can see in the photo.
Why walking is good at reducing your blood pressure
Exercise is recommended for high blood pressure. It’s not just me saying that, many studies have shown that a brisk walk each day will help reduce your blood pressure.
The reason walking is recommended to help you reduce your blood pressure is quite simple really. Walking briskly makes your heart stronger. When you have a stronger heart, it will pump the blood round your body without any strain. In fact, there are some people who after taking up brisk walking have come off the medication they were on to reduce their blood pressure – how great is that?
It’s important though to remember it is a brisk walk which involves you breathing harder, pumping your arms and going for at least 30 minutes will be the best. Of course, you should speak to your doctor before taking on any exercise if you have high blood pressure – that goes without saying folks!
Another study showed that walking helped participants drop their blood pressure by 5 points. So, I guess the trick is to start walking and to keep it up. The good thing about walking is that you can fit it in to your daily schedule without having to think about finding time to go to the gym.
However, not only does exercise help you reduce your blood pressure but it also helps to reduce your blood sugar levels too. This means that if you suffer from Type 1 diabetes then walking is also the answer for you. This is because walking helps encourage the body to use insulin more effectively.
Exercises to avoid with high blood pressure
There are some exercises that aren’t great to do if you have high blood pressure. For example, weight lifting or sprinting. These types of exercises will raise your blood pressure quite quickly and put further strain on your heart and your blood vessels. This is something you may want to avoid.
Keeping your own pipework moving!
If you have high blood pressure, then walking will indeed help you reduce it. Walking will also make your heart stronger and perhaps help prevent you from getting high blood pressure. Walking is achievable by everyone, no matter your size or your age.
There is so much supporting evidence nowadays of the huge benefits of staying active as we get older. Researchers from Arizona found that even walking 10 minutes three times a day is a better strategy for controlling your blood pressure than anything else!
High blood pressure afflicts nearly 75 million people in the United States, and around 12.5 million in the UK. High blood pressure can greatly increase ill health from strokes to heart attached. Of course, our sedentary lifestyles don’t help and neither do our diets! Walking is the key though.
There are so many ways to build walking in to your everyday life. Not only does walking help your physical health, it also helps your mental health and well-being. You are exercising a very important muscle – your heart – when you go out for a brisk walk. Which in turns helps to lower your blood pressure.
Walking really is the answer for so many things and there is evidence to back that up. All you have to do is put on a pair of comfortable shoes and walk. It really is that easy. You don’t have to go far either, walking round your garden would be start. You also don’t need money, and did you know that people who take up walking often stick to it? Not like other forms of exercise where the dropout rate is greater.
So, what are you waiting for? Get on your shoes and start walking today to getting fit and staying healthy.