Blood pressure – What is it? and why is it important to keep it under control?

“The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today.”

– H. Jackson Brown, Jr.


 

shutterstock_2When the blood is pumped from the heart, it puts pressure on the artery walls measured as blood pressure. Blood pressure is measured as Systolic (contraction of the heart) and Diastolic (relation of the heart) – the lub dub sound when you listen to your heart beat. Hypertension (high blood pressure), is defined by the World Health Organisation, as an individual with systolic blood pressure (SBP) greater or equal (≥) to 140 mm Hg and/or the diastolic blood pressure (DBP) greater or equal (≥) to 90 mmHg.

As we age, the arteries become stiffer and as a result the SBP increases. In addition, blood pressure is increased when we exercise or during periods of exertion and stress. However, poor lifestyle choices and environmental factors like being overweight, lack of physical activity, excessive alcohol consumption, high salt intake, in addition to lack of support all increase the hypertension risks in the younger age groups.

High blood pressure (BP) values are a concern when they are high during rest- resulting in an overworked heart and extra stress being placed on the arteries walls.

· Increasing the work rate of the heart thickens the walls and cause blood clots which can lead to heart attacks

· Greater force is emitted against the artery walls, causing damage, which increases the vulnerability to plaque buildup from atherosclerosis. The narrowed artery limits the blood flow around the body. This is especially dangerous when the flow to the heart is deprived, limiting the oxygen supply causing a heart attack.

It is important to remember that Hypertension is known as the silent killer, as it usually produces no symptoms, meaning that most people don’t even know they have it. It is an extremely prevalent condition, affecting around 1 in 7 adults, causing 7.1 million premature deaths worldwide.

The good news is that Hypertension is preventable. Lifestyle modifications (exercise in combination with healthy diet and weight loss) are the main form of treatment and prevention of hypertension. Increasing physical exercise, reducing salt intake, reducing weight in obese patients, cessation of smoking and healthy eating all contribute to these healthy choices. Compared with the other form of hypertension treatment, drug therapy, lifestyle modifications have no known harmful effects on individuals. Every little bit helps, as even small reductions in blood pressure are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.

References

Al-Nozha, M. & Khalil,M (2008) Recent advances in the management of Hypertension. Review Article. Saudi Medicine Journal. Vol. 29 (8): 1083-1087

American College of Sports Medicine (2006) ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. 7th ed. New York, Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins

Blumenthal, J. Sherwood, A. Gullette, E. Babyak, M. Waugh, R. Georgiades, A. Craighead, L. Tweedy, D. Feinglos, M. Appelbaum M,Hayano, J. & Hinderliter, A (2000) Exercise and weight loss reduce blood pressure in men and women with mild hypertension: effects on cardiovascular, metabolic, and hemodynamic functioning. Arch Intern Med. 10;160(13):1947-58

Dimeo, F. Pagonas, N. Seibert, F. Arndt, R. Zidek, W. & Westhoff, T. (2013) Aerobic Exercise Reduces Blood Pressure in Resistant Hypertension. Journal of the American Heart Association. 60:653-658

Whitworth J (2003) World Health Organization (WHO)/International Society of Hypertension (ISH) statement on management of hypertension. J Hypertens. 21(11):1983-92.

 

LUKE MICHAEL
BAPPSC(EX. & SP.SC)
accredited exercise physiologist

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